FOXBORO -- The Patriots suffered a big blow in their Divisional Round matchup with the Texans when tight end Rob Gronkowski re-fractured the forearm that he first broke against the Colts on Nov. 18. He will need to undergo surgery again and is out for the remainder of the postseason.
The news was first reported by Pro Football Talk.
Gronkowski came up hurting when he laid out for a pass along the sideline in the first quarter and hit his left arm on the Gillette Stadium turf. He immediately took himself out of the game and later headed for the Patriots locker room.
Gronkowski broke his left arm in a collision while blocking for an extra point in a win over the Colts in Week 11. He returned for New England's Week 17 and caught two passes for 42 yards and a touchdown in a win over the Dolphins. He wore a large padded wrap covering his arm against the Dolphins and sported the wrap again against the Texans.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if there was any uncertainty as to whether or not Gronkowski's arm was ready for live action.
"He wouldn't have played if he wasn't," Belichick said.
Belichick said he did not know if Gronkowski's arm was broken or if he had been taken to the hospital. He was asked if he had any regret playing Gronkowski.
"The doctors handle the medical decisions," Belichick answered.
The Patriots will now have to move forward without Gronkowski. They survived without him for six weeks earlier in the season, but his talents are so unique that there is no substitute who can handle all of the duties in which he normally thrives when fully healthy.
"It's hard to replace a player like him because he's a freak of nature," Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez said. "Everyone has to step up and everyone has to keep making plays so we can keep it rolling."
As is the case so often when a Patriots player is injured, teammates in the locker room sounded their common next-man-up refrain.
"It's unfortunate, but guys have to step up," said Patriots receiver Wes Welker. "Guys have got to come out, make plays and make up for his absence."
Against the Texans, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui saw a healthy dose of playing time when Gronkowski went down. He didn't register a catch but was a serviceable substitute, as was running back Shane Vereen when Danny Woodhead was injured on New England's first offensive play from scrimmage. Patriots coach Bill Belichick lauded both for their efforts after the game.
"Hoomanawanui and Shane stepped in there and both did a good job for us," Belichick said. "Shane obviously made a lot of big plays, but Hooman did a great job too, as he's been doing for the last month. These kinds of games, you never really know when the dial spins, where it's going to wind up, who it's going to end up on. Those guys were prepared. Offensively we were able to move the ball, put up some points. It's a credit to everybody to be ready."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said the whole game plan changed in the first half when the team was without both Gronkowski and Woodhead.
"We had a whole game plan built for Gronkowski and Woodhead," Brady said. "We run the first series of the game and all those plans change I think a little of it was 'What are we going to do now? How are we going to adjust?' But we seemed to settle in there midway through the first quarter and put together a pretty good game. Obviously it's a bummer to lose anybody, but someone of Rob's importance or Danny's importance, we need guys to step in and fill the void, whether it's this game or any game after."