FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots never talk about injuries, so the secrecy surrounding Tom Brady’s injury in practice Wednesday wasn’t surprising.

On Sunday, not long after the Patriots defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-20 for their eighth AFC championship since 2001, Brady finally opened up about the injury, admitting that he didn’t know if he would be able to play. Brady suffered a cut on his right hand while handing off the ball in a drill. It was apparently very bloody and required several stitches, perhaps as many as 10.

“Yeah, I wasn’t sure on Wednesday,” Brady said in his postgame press conference. “I certainly didn’t think … I thought, ‘Out of all the plays, my season can’t end on a handoff in practice.’ We didn’t come this far to end on a handoff. It’s just one of those things.”

Brady not only played, but he was vintage Brady for the most part. He was 26 of 38 for 290 yards and two touchdowns – both in the fourth quarter to Danny Amendola as the Patriots overcame a 20-10 deficit.

Brady credited the Patriots’ training staff as well as his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, with getting him ready to play. He wore a piece of black tape that wrapped up his thumb.

Brady said he hoped to have the stitches out “pretty soon. I think hopefully this week, mid-week, then I can just get out there and get normal treatment like I always do and be ready to go.”

TIGHT END Rob Gronkowski left the game with 1:23 remaining in the second quarter when he suffered a head injury on a hard hit by Jacksonville’s Brad Church on a pass over the middle. Gronkowski was visibly shaken by the hit and walked slowly off the field.

Considering that Gronkowski is Brady’s No. 1 target, his absence made the comeback victory all the more impressive. Other receivers had to step up, particularly Amendola (seven catches on nine targets, 84 yards and two touchdowns) and Brandin Cooks (six catches on eight targets, 100 yards).

“I don’t feel any added pressure,” said Amendola. “Every play, I’m competing my tail off to try to win the route, win the block or whatever my job is on that play. Whoever is in the game, whoever is beside me, I have a lot of trust and faith in them, whether it’s Gronk or Cookie or Hoagie (Chris Hogan) … whoever it is. I know we have a lot of trust in that room.”

Brady credited offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels – who’s rumored to be heading to Indianapolis to become the Colts’ next head coach – with adjusting the game plan after Gronkowski’s injury.

“Josh did such a great job of figuring out what we needed to do and how we needed to get it done,” said Brady. “And he made it happen. It’s hard when you lose such a critical part of your team and your offense. Hopefully he’s OK.”

Before Gronkowski was injured, he caught a 21-yard pass to become the NFL’s all-time leader in postseason receiving yards by a tight end with 856.

THE PATRIOTS are 5-4 all-time in the Super Bowl and have a chance to tie Pittsburgh for the most Super Bowl wins.

They are a streaky team in the Super Bowl. They lost their first two (Chicago, Green Bay), won their next three (St. Louis, Carolina and Philadelphia), lost their next two (both times to the New York Giants) and won their last two (Seattle, Atlanta). Now they’re facing Philadelphia in a rematch of the Super Bowl after the 2004 season, won by the Patriots, 24-21.

Brady has now been the quarterback on eight conference championship teams, an NFL record. John Elway is second with five.

RUNNING BACK Rex Burkhead returned to the lineup from a knee injury after missing the last three games, including the 35-14 win over Tennessee in the divisional round. Fellow running back Mike Gilleslee, however, was inactive for his third consecutive game (also because a knee injury) and ninth in the last 10 games. Also inactive for the Patriots were wide receivers Kenny Britt and Bernard Reedy, linebacker David Harris, tight end Jacob Hollister, offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle (knee) and defensive tackle Alan Branch (knee).

PLAYERS ON both teams received a $51,000 share for being in the AFC championship game.

The shares get a little bigger in the next game: players on the winning team in the Super Bowl get $112,000, while players on the losing team get $56,000.

 

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