INDIANAPOLIS After a week of attention on his troublesome ankle, New England Patriots wide receiver Rob Gronkowski was left with more pain from his team's 21-17 loss to the New York Giants than from his injury.
A week after getting off the plane in Indianapolis wearing a protective ankle boot, Gronkowski was able to play in the Super Bowl but quarterback Tom Brady targeted him rarely.
The 22-year-old set National Football League records for a tight end with 1,327 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns during the regular season but there was little sign of that kind of form on Sunday.
Gronkowski had just two receptions for 26 yards and while his limited use was surely down to his ankle, he insisted he was fully fit.
"I was good. I was 100 percent out there doing everything they asked me to do," he told reporters after the game.
"The trainers did a good job for two weeks, so when it got to the game time, I was ready to go."
Gronkowski shrugged off a question about how much pain he may have been in due to inflammation and also denied the suggestion that he would now face surgery during the off-season.
"I just have to keep doing treatments. I'm recovering now. It'll be good to go, so I'm not worried about it at all," he said.
Instead it was the hurt of defeat that left the tight-end wincing at questions.
"It definitely hurts. Just losing the game hurts so much (with) how much we dedicated ourselves, how much our team mates all went through, just grinding every single day and every single off-day all together. We've just got to keep going and hope we can get to this position again."
Gronkowski could have been the last-gasp hero, however, had he been able to get to a 'Hail Mary' pass from Brady at the death.
It was a near-impossible task with so many New York defenders surrounding him but he made every effort to pull off what would have been a dramatic game-winner.
"I was close, but close doesn't matter. Close isn't enough. Close doesn't get it done. It's either you catch it or you don't, and that didn't happen."
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)