AFC East injury report, Week 17: Rob Ninkovich hurt, Rob Gronkowski back

Jared Wickerham

The New England Patriots got Rob Gronkowski back but lost defensive end Rob Ninkovich in their Week 17 game. It's unclear whether he'll be back for their first playoff game, although backup Justin Francis was great in relief.

The New England Patriots are somewhat banged up entering the postseason, including an injury to starting defensive end Rob Ninkovich. But luckily they earned the No. 2 seed and will have two weeks to mend.

Ninkovich was helped off the field Sunday against the Miami Dolphins with a left hip injury and didn't return. His status, as well as the extent of the injury, are uncertain. With Ninkovic out, backup defensive end Justin Francis saw his most significant playing time in this, his rookie season. He responded amazingly well with three sacks.

Cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard and Aqib Talib both sat against the Dolphins. Dennard has been out two weeks with knee and hamstring issues, while Talib dressed but didn't play while dealing with hip injuries. Both are questionable going forward.

Special teamers Nate Ebner and Marquice Cole were inactive with hamstring and finger injuries, while offensive lineman Nick McDonald was out with a shoulder injury. None is a huge loss for the Pats, and all could be back for the playoffs.

Rob Gronkowski was back against the Dolphins and didn't show any ill effects after surgery to repair a broken forearm, catching a 23-yard touchdown. He should be good to go for the playoffs.

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