FOXBOROUGH -- Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots' all-pro tight end and holder of the NFL record for most touchdowns in a season at his position, had been focused all week on returning to the lineup.
After missing the past five weeks with a broken forearm, suffered in Week 11 against the Indianapolis Colts, Gronkowski returned in the season finale against the Miami Dolphins Sunday. He caught two passes for 42 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown, helping the Patriots to a 28-0 win.
Despite using his left forearm gingerly throughout the game -- with more care than he gives those unlucky spiked footballs -- the burly tight end was still happy to be back on the field.
"I was out there having a good time with my teammates. It was a blast being back out on the field," Gronkowski said. "It was up to the coaches, the training staff how much I was going to play. They control everything. I was just glad we got the win versus a good Miami Dolphins team. They have a good defense."
Gronkowski was apprehensive to talk about when he got cleared to play medically, saying instead that he was already in the mindset to play last Monday.
"I just prepared all week thinking I was going to play," he said. "And, um, really I just didn't get an answer like 'All right, Rob, you're good to go.' The doctors cleared me and everything, so that was good. But I was just preparing myself and my mind all week that I was going to play. So It really wasn't when I got cleared, cause I was just preparing myself all week since Monday that I was going to come out here with the teammates.
"It was up to the coaches how much I was playing, how limited I was."
He was limited, and missed several series in the second and third quarters before returning in the fourth and catching a 23-yard touchdown pass.
"I got limited reps, obviously," he said. "Not that many, but you always want to get some reps before heading into the playoffs. So it's good to get the speed down, the feel of the game. There's practice, you can go higher, but that was game time. So it was great to get some reps in, get the flow back into it, and be out there with your teammates and connect with some chemistry with your teammates."