FOXBORO, Mass. -- It didn't take long to put the "ow" back in Gronkowski.
Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots' playmaking tight end, left Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game against the Texans after about seven minutes of play and one pass thrown in his direction. He reinjured the left forearm he broke in November, according to multiple reports, and will require season-ending surgery.
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"Obviously it's a bummer to lose anybody," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said, "but someone of Rob's importance . . . We need guys to step up and fill the void, whether it's this game or any other game."
Gronkowski reinjured the forearm, which was heavily wrapped, on a pass from Brady down the right sideline. Gronkowski made the catch but was out of bounds. He landed right on the forearm in front of the Patriots' bench, and after a sideline examination by the team's medical staff, he was escorted into the locker room area. He never returned to the field.
There were reports earlier in the week that Gronkowski was not comfortable playing, but coach Bill Belichick maintained that he was healthy enough to get on the field.
"He wouldn't have played if he wasn't. The doctors handle medical decisions," Belichick said a week after Redskins coach Mike Shanahan came under fire for allowing a clearly-injured Robert Griffin III to stay in the game until he suffered a serious knee injury.
Gronkowski missed five regular-season games but returned for the Week 17 finale, catching two passes against Miami. The Patriots were 4-1 without him.
After Gronkowski was injured Sunday, Michael Hoomanawanui stepped in to fill his blocking responsibilities and Aaron Hernandez caught six passes for 85 yards. Brady also compensated by hitting Wes Welker for eight passes for 131 yards.
News of Gronkowski's injury spread through the Patriots' locker room after the 41-28 win over the Texans.
"That's always a tough break," guard Logan Mankins said. "Everyone on the team loves Rob. Loves him as a person and as a player."
"That's rough," cornerback Aqib Talib said. "I said a real long prayer for that dude."
"You look right and you look left and there's nobody else to go in there," Hoomanawanui said of coming off the bench and filling in. "It's unfortunate a great player like that went down, but we played a couple of games without him and we've been successful.''
Hoomanawanui said the experience he gained while Gronkowski was out during the regular season was useful when he was called into action Sunday.
"Practice is one thing," he said, "but getting live game reps definitely helps out."