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Gronkowski, TE injury analysis

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm on the Patriots’ final extra point of Sunday’s win over the Colts, ESPN Adam Schefter confirmed.

The injury was initially reported by Tom E. Curran of Comcast Sports Net.

“Rob is obviously a special player, so when he goes down, it will obviously hurt,” fellow tight end Michael Hoomanawanui said after the game. “But we have a lot of depth and a lot of guys anxious to fill in and help this team win. Hopefully we can get Aaron [Hernandez] back [from an ankle injury]. We’ll just say a prayer and keep moving on.”

The Patriots are deep at tight end, with Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe and Hoomanawanui.

But there’s only one Gronkowski.

It’s rare for a team to carry five tight ends, and the return of Hernandez, who initially injured his right ankle Sept. 16 and has yet to fully recover (he returned for games Oct. 14 and Oct. 21 before shutting it down again), would soften the blow of losing Gronkowski a bit.

Hernandez is close to a return, which could come as soon as Thursday night against the Jets.

Meanwhile, Fells (6th year), Shiancoe (10th year) and Hoomanawanui (3rd year) would likely be in line for expanded snaps for however long Gronkowski would be sidelined.

The 29-year-old Fells was signed as a free agent this offseason, although he’s fallen out of favor the last two games, playing just three snaps against the Bills on Nov. 11 before he was a healthy scratch Sunday vs. the Colts. The Patriots will likely integrate him back into the mix until Gronkowski returns, as he is as close to Gronkowski as a blocker as the Patriots have at the position.

Shiancoe, 32, spent the first half of the season on injured reserve, but he returned last week as part of the new injured reserve category that allows one player to come back onto the 53-man roster later in the season. He played in the majority of two-TE sets Sunday against the Colts, alongside Gronkowski.

Meanwhile, the 24-year-old Hoomanawanui joined the Patriots at the start of the season, as his background from playing under current Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels with the St. Louis Rams was considered valuable. He has taken on some fullback-type responsibilities in the offense.

“When anyone, let alone Rob goes down, that’s part of the business. One play, you never know, unfortunately it could happen,” Hoomanawanui said. “You just have to be ready to step up and keep taking on whatever role the team needs you to play. We’ll move on and be ready to fill in and get ready for the Jets on Thursday.”