- Field Yates, ESPN Insider
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Though his team was unable to come away with a victory, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was a bright spot in the 30-27 overtime loss to the New York Jets. He played 51 of 79 offensive snaps and caught a game-high eight passes for 114 yards.
All eyes were on Gronkowski in his season debut, and the fourth-year tight end said he was feeling good physically after the game.
"Everything went good, I'm feeling good and just got to keep working hard every week, got to keep on improving every week," he said. "[I've] got lots to improve on and can keep on getting better every week."
After missing the first six games of the regular season, Gronkowski was happy to be back on the field with his teammates.
"It felt good to get back out there with the teammates," he added. "Fight with your team. Played hard with your team. You win as a team, you lose a team, and you've got to give it to the Jets, they're a good team, they've got a good defense and we've just to make more plays out there."
He wore a protective brace over his left forearm, which was twice broken last season and required multiple offseason surgeries to repair. He said after the game that it took just one play for him to start feeling comfortable again.
"I was in there [for] a lot of blocking plays and it was just really after the first play," he said. "I mean, after the first time you get tackled, after the first blocking play, after basically the first play and it felt good, it felt just like normal, being back out there with the teammates and rolling."
Patriots tight ends had accounted for just 96 receiving yards in the team's first six games, but the offense was dramatically impacted by Gronkowski's return.
Despite his solid effort, Gronkowski admitted he left some plays on the field, including a near one-handed grab late in the game that could have resulted in a touchdown.
"Still mad at myself about that," he said. "I had it, I brought it in and I dropped it."
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady praised Gronkowski's efforts after the game, but was focused on his offense's inability to make enough plays for the win.
"He played his butt off," he said of Gronkowski. "All the guys played hard, it was a lot of effort, we played hard, played for as long as we could, we just didn't make enough plays."