FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a reflection of how New England Patriots coaches view tight end Rob Gronkowski's value to the team, and how the risk of injury was viewed greater than any on-field reward from playing him, Gronkowski was a healthy scratch for Sunday's regular-season finale 17-9 loss against the Buffalo Bills.
While the decision to sit Gronkowski didn't come as a major surprise, given the Patriots are locked into the AFC's No. 1 playoff seed, it is notable that Gronkowski was the only player among the Patriots inactives who wasn't on the team's 18-player injury report this week.
Last year, he missed the playoffs with a torn ACL, while the year before he was out with a broken forearm. In 2011, he played in the Super Bowl with a badly sprained ankle.
Gronkowski is fully healthy at this point, as evidenced by him playing every offensive snap last Sunday against the Jets and not appearing on the team's injury report.
He finished the regular season with 76 receptions for 1,093 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Perhaps coach Bill Belichick's decision was influenced by what unfolded in the 2009 season finale, when then-Patriots receiver Wes Welker tore his ACL against the Houston Texans, and missed the playoffs that season.
The Patriots' other inactives Sunday were receiver Julian Edelman (concussion), running back Jonas Gray (ankle), cornerback Brandon Browner (groin), linebacker Dont'a Hightower (shoulder), guard Dan Connolly (knee) and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back).