New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is ready for the playoffs, injuries and all.
New England, the second seed in the AFC playoffs, enjoyed a much-needed bye week after a long regular season.
But, the 11-5 regular season saw its share of injuries, and Gronkowski was no exception. He has been dealing with ankle and back issues while continuing to be one of quarterback Tom Brady's top targets.
Brady and Gronkowski, however, did not connect like they have in the past. The tight end tied a career-low with three touchdown receptions in 13 games and he finished the regular season with just 47 catches for 682 yards.
"It's the game of football, there are no room for excuses," Gronkowski told reporters on Thursday. "Everyone is dealing with something. You just have to keep on moving forward, you have to find a way. That is what makes this game great. You have to be mentally and physically prepared at all times to keep on going."
The divisional round will pit the Patriots against the Los Angeles Chargers, who have the best total defense entering the postseason. The Chargers also have a talented rookie in safety Derwin James, who has allowed tight ends to catch 42 per cent of their targets when he is close by.
This will be a difficult matchup for the five-time Pro Bowl player. Gronkowski had only four receptions over the last three weeks of the regular season, and he was shut out in a 24-12 win over the Buffalo Bills.
"It's a one-game season," Gronkowski said. "You have to put it all on the line, no matter what. No matter what you got, whatever you're dealing with, you have to put it all on the line. If you lose the game, you're going home. So, I would just say, everybody leave it all out there."