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Patriots: Belichick defends decision to leave Gronkowski in game

Rob Gronkowski may be out through the remainder of the regular season.<br /><div><br /></div>

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick received some predictable criticism following the news that tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss the next four-to-six weeks due to a broken forearm.

Belichick chose to leave Gronkowski on the field late in the Patriots’ 59-24 blowout win over Indianapolis and No. 87 wound up breaking his arm while blocking on New England’s final extra point attempt with 3:55 remaining in the game.

The Pats head coach defended the move yesterday, saying that ‘selective substitutions’ late in games will never be something he’s too concerned with.

"I don't think that's really a good way to approach a team,” Belichick told WEEI radio yesterday. “I've never done that. I don't think that would be a very successful approach to it. You only have so many players. You only dress so many players. Somebody's got to play. I think you've got to be careful when you're trying to run a team, to go up to one guy and say, 'Michael, we're going to leave you in the game because we care about you, but Glenn, we're going to take you out because you're really important. You other guys go in there because if something happens to you, we don't really care.'”

Gronkowski reportedly had surgery Monday. Under the four-to-six week timetable, Gronkowski would be eligible to return to the field against the 49ers on Dec. 16 at the absolute earliest. The Pats wrap up their regular season schedule at Jacksonville (Dec. 23) and at home against Miami (Dec. 30). The NFL playoffs begin Jan. 5 but if the Patriots could obtain one of the two top seeds in the AFC, they would not begin postseason play until the following weekend.

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