Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was adamant yesterday that he did not return to the field too soon, despite breaking his left forearm a second time.

The $54 million enforcer maintained it was simply a freak accident that he hit the turf in the divisional playoffs and broke the arm again.

"The doctors cleared me," Gronkowski said. "As a player, you want to be out there for every game. I definitely don't believe I came back too early. It's just a freak accident. It's very frustrating when that happens, too. It's just a thing I can't really do anything about.

"It's just frustrating, the way I landed on it and how it broke," Gronkowski added. "It's just a freak thing how the first one broke, how the second one broke. The only thing it does is frustrate you, but now it's just a time where I've got to rehab it, take my time now, get 100 percent so it's ready to go for next season."

Gronkowski initially broke the arm in Week 11 against the Colts, and his initial recovery timetable was 4-6 weeks. He missed five games before returning for limited work in the regular-season finale against the Dolphins, and was noticeably timid. Gronkowski then broke the arm on the seventh offensive snap of the postseason and had surgery on Jan. 14.

Gronkowski said the plan was to run through a similar timetable to rehabilitate this injury. If that's the case, he should be able to resume workouts by the end of February. The Patriots will begin their offseason program in April, but players can return to the facility sooner.

"It doesn't start for a couple more months," Gronkowski said. "Obviously, I'm planning on being healthy within the same time frame as last time. Just got to rehab, get my muscles strengthened back up, let the bone heal and obviously my goal is to be 100 percent before the season, which I think is very fair to say that I will be."