NEW ORLEANS — Sporting a large black cast that covered his entire left forearm, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was all over the Super Bowl media center’s Radio Row Thursday, making promotional appearances.
For the second time in as many offseasons, Gronkowski is rehabbing, this time after suffering a second break in the arm during the Patriots’ 41-28 playoff win over Houston.
Gronkowski initially broke his left arm late in the 59-24 win over Indianapolis Nov. 18, and returned to play for the regular-season finale Dec. 30 against Miami. Even though it was clear that he was favoring the arm in that game, Gronkowski insisted that he did not come back too early.
“No, definitely not,” he said. “The doctors cleared me, and as a player, you want to be out there for every game, and I definitely don’t believe I came back too early.
“It was just a freak accident. It’s very frustrating when that happens, too. I just think that you can’t really do anything about it.”
Against Houston, Gronkowski re-injured the arm by diving out of bounds trying to catch a pass and landing on it. This time, the fracture was just beyond the end of the metal plate that had been surgically placed after the first injury.
Asked when he expects to be back on the field, Gronkowski referenced the Patriots’ offseason training program, saying, “It doesn’t start for a couple more months, so obviously I plan on being healthy within the same time frame as last time. Just got to rehab, get my muscle strength back up, let the bone heal, and obviously my goal is to be 100 percent before the season, which I think it’s pretty fair to say that I will be.”
A Waters sighting
The Patriots’ missing man, Brian Waters, was also in the media center Thursday. Waters was on hand for the NFL Players Association’s annual Super Bowl press conference; he is a member of the union’s executive board.
After a Pro Bowl season at guard in 2011, his first with New England, Waters never returned to the team despite being under contract for 2012.
He was excused from offseason work to be with his family in Texas, but once training camp began, days ticked away and Waters never arrived. Approached after the press conference, He declined an interview. When asked if he will return to play in 2013, Waters would not say. Since he did not show up last year, Waters ’s contract tolled and he will is still be under contract with the Patriots for the coming season.
No labor peace
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and union president Domonique Foxworth used a Super Bowl news conference to lay out a series of complaints about safety issues.
Smith began by threatening to file a grievance if the NFL refuses to institute a system to verify the credentials of all medical personnel on the 32 teams.
He mentioned three amendments the NFLPA wants to make to the new CBA, including the appointment of ‘‘a neutral chief safety officer who can hear appeals about acceptable levels of medical care.’’
He called the NFL’s lockout of its officials at the start of this season ‘‘one of the most deliberate disregards of player safety that I think has occurred in the National Football League since our inception.’’
Elsewhere, NFL general counsel Jeff Pash said he expects independent neurological consultants to be on sidelines during games next season to help diagnose and treat concussions.
To be clear . . .
Ravens safety (and soon-to-be free agent) Ed Reed felt the need to clarify statements made about potentially playing for the Patriots. “I was asked, ‘Would I play for Bill Belichick?’ Yes. What football player wouldn’t play for Coach Belichick? Will I be in New England? Most likely not,” Reed said, adding that he would like to stay in Baltimore . . . Niners cornerback Chris Culliver apologized for anti-gay comments he made to a comedian during Super Bowl Media Day, saying, ‘‘That’s not what I feel in my heart.’’ . . . Niners linebackers Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks were limited in practice for the second day with shoulder injuries; no Ravens were listed on the injury report . . . Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher took to Twitter to announce that he has re-signed with the team. Fletcher tore his ACL in the Patriots’ first preseason game.
Donald Driver, the Packers all-time leading receiver, announced his retirement. ‘‘I’ve always said I never want to wear another uniform,’’ said Driver, who turns 38 Saturday
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.