Continued from page 1

“It’s hard to replace a player like him because he’s a freak of nature,” tight end Aaron Hernandez said, “but everyone has to step up and everyone has to keep making plays so we can keep it rolling. (He) definitely helps me out because so much attention is on him.

“It’s a big loss and you can’t replace a player like him.”

Last season, Gronkowski’s status was listed as questionable for the Super Bowl just 48 hours before the New York Giants 21-17 victory. He had suffered a high sprain to his left ankle two weeks earlier in the Patriots' 23-20 win over the Ravens in the AFC championship game. That hampered him in the Super Bowl in which he had just two catches for 26 yards after a season in which he had 105 receptions, 15 of them in the other two postseason games.

After the season, he had arthroscopic surgery on the ankle.

On Sunday, backup tight end Michael Hoomanawanui got more action once Gronkowski left.

“I just saw him a little bit ago,” Hoomanawanui said. “A guy with that much talent, it stinks. There’s no other way to put it. I went down with a knee injury last year that ended my season and you never want to see that for anyone, for an opponent, but let alone a guy that you spend a lot of time with each and every day.”

Asked if Gronkowski would miss the rest of the postseason, Hoomanawanui said, “I haven’t heard yet. He looks like he was hurting. I’m sure we’ll find out here soon enough.”

___

Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL