The question was never really whether he would play, but rather how effective he would be on that injured left ankle. Gronkowski had just two receptions for 26 yards as the Patriots lost 21-17.
Among the players on the inactive list for the Patriots was veteran running back Kevin Faulk, who is the longest-tenured Patriot (drafted in 1999). The 35-year-old Faulk has not been a big contributor on the field for the Patriots this season, which could be his last in the NFL. He has just 17 carries and two receptions.
In a game of this magnitude, one line of thinking was that Patriots coach Bill Belichick would lean more toward experience than youth at running back. But he went the opposite direction, going with rookie Stevan Ridley (two fumbles in his last two games) over Faulk. The Patriots have BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Ridley active at running back for the Super Bowl, with Lousaka Polite at fullback.
Veteran receiver Chad Ochocinco, who was inactive for the AFC title game (he attended his father's funeral the day before) and played just one snap in the divisional round, was active as the fourth receiver. He's playing in his first Super Bowl. Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Julian Edelman top the depth chart. Receiver Tiquan Underwood was cut on Saturday, virtually assuring Ochocinco would be active for this game.
After missing seven straight games with back/foot injuries, starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was active.
Outside of Faulk, there were no major surprises for the Patriots on their inactive list. Quarterback Ryan Mallett was active for just one game this season, while rookie running back Shane Vereen had been inactive over the last two months and linebacker Gary Guyton had fallen out of favor. In addition, defensive lineman Ron Brace hasn't broken through, while offensive lineman Donald Thomas had been inactive in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw missed practice last week with a sore foot but was active.
Inactive for the Giants were LB Mark Herzlich, who overcame cancer while in college before making the team, receiver Ramses Barden, RB Da'Rel Scott, C Jim Cordle, DE Justin Trattou, DT Jimmy Kennedy and OT James Brewer.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.