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Patriots Notebook

Ankle sprain won’t stop Gronkowski

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By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / January 24, 2012
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FOXBOROUGH - It is the question every member of Patriots Nation - and the growing legion known as Gronk Nation - had yesterday: how is Rob Gronkowski?

The tight end had his left ankle rolled on in Sunday’s AFC Championship game by Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard on the end of a 23-yard reception late in the third quarter.

He got help from teammates to get off the field, and was immediately taken into the locker room. But he returned in the fourth quarter, albeit with a limp, and told reporters after the game he was fine.

A Patriot who does talk to the media generally doesn’t have a serious injury, and a league source yesterday said Gronkowski has just a sprain, and he will be OK for Super Bowl XLVI.

During the open locker-room period yesterday, the second-year player was spotted opening the door that leads to the meeting rooms and cafeteria, but when he spotted reporters, he quickly changed his mind about entering the locker room.

He was still wearing the protective boot he had on when he left Gillette Stadium on Sunday night.

Super contest

Patriots owner Robert Kraft met with reporters for the third time in four days yesterday, this time to announce a contest the team is holding in conjunction with the Super Bowl.

Though his team is largely inexperienced when it comes to dealing with everything that comes with playing for an NFL title, Kraft believes the Patriots will be OK as they move from their win over Baltimore to their meeting with the Giants.

“I believe in this team big-time,’’ Kraft said. “We have a coach [Bill Belichick] who has gone through this learning curve pretty well. The system we have here, hopefully we have a system and discipline and the best coach in place that will keep people focused. Fortunately, we’ve had the experience of going to this game before. We have certain disciplines we follow and we’ll follow those now.’’

He joked that NBC is “very happy’’ about the Super Bowl matchup and its possibility for huge ratings. Not only are New York and Boston large markets, it is also a rematch of one of the greatest Super Bowls ever.

Kraft announced the “Super Bowl for Super People’’ sweepstakes: between now and midnight tomorrow, the team is looking for New England-based nominees from the nursing, teaching, military, law enforcement, and firefighting fields. Through a random drawing, two individuals from each field will be selected and receive two tickets to Super Bowl XLVI.

The Patriots are holding the contest in conjunction with their season-long “Celebrate Volunteerism’’ campaign, which is part of the tribute to Myra Kraft’s memory.

For rules and details, visit patriots.com/community.

Brady has regret

Quarterback Tom Brady said during his weekly contractually obligated appearance on WEEI that his deep pass intended for Matthew Slater Sunday that ended up as an interception kept him awake that night.

“We hadn’t really taken any shots, so I thought we were trying to get them to fall asleep on a play,’’ Brady explained of the decision to try the home-run ball. “Matt was running hard and Pollard got his hand on it and Jimmy Smith made a great interception. We learned from it. I certainly wish I didn’t throw that interception, that was probably the play that kept me up all night last night, but our defense really saved the day for us.’’

Brady said he wasn’t feeling 100 percent yesterday morning, especially after his fourth-down fourth-quarter end zone dive for what turned out to be the game-winning points. The Ravens’ Ray Lewis hit Brady in the back with his helmet on the play.

“Hopefully it goes away in the next 48 hours, before we start practice [tomorrow],’’ Brady said. “It feels a lot better when you win, I’ll tell you that. Even though I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night, I’m feeling pretty good this morning.’’

O’Brien at work

Patriots offensive coordinator and newly minted Penn State coach Bill O’Brien is on the college campus until tomorrow as he works on recruiting. National signing day is Feb. 1. He told the Philadelphia Inquirer that balancing his two jobs means he’s only getting 3-4 hours of sleep per night . . . The Chicago Sun-Times reported yesterday that Chicago will have a second interview with New England director of pro personnel Jason Licht for the Bears general manager opening. Chiefs director of college scouting Phil Emery also will have a second interview . . . Deion Branch couldn’t talk to reporters yesterday. He lost his voice celebrating the AFC title.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com.

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