Injured players returning to action

When the Patriots and Texans kick off this Sunday in divisional-round action, each team will be in better shape from a health standpoint than when the teams last squared off Dec. 10.

Here's an overview of the notable players who missed that game due to injury.


Tight end Rob Gronkowski: The Patriots put up four passing scores in Week 14 without Gronkowski, but the third-year tight end brings a dynamic option back to his offense. He scored a touchdown in his return to action in Week 17 following a broken forearm that sidelined him for five games.


Right tackle Derek Newton: Similar to how Patriots second-year tackle Nate Solder stepped in to replace a longtime regular on the line in 2012, Newton filled the void created by Eric Winston, who left via free agency last offseason. The second-year pro brings stability to his side of the line.

Linebacker Brooks Reed: The Texans are well-stocked with pass rushers, but Reed was nonetheless missed back in Week 14. He made his presence felt during the wild-card round, notching a sack and three tackles.

Tight end Garrett Graham: Both teams like to run multiple tight end sets, and Graham is a key cog for Houston as a depth-level player. He caught three passes in the wild-card game, and is healed from a concussion that kept him out of Week 14.

Cornerback Alan Ball: A key on special teams, Ball comes back from a foot injury that held him out the last time these two teams met.