He said he’ll be ready to play, against the New York Giants, with his usual intensity and toughness in running routes and grabbing Tom Brady’s passes — a chance to become a Super Bowl hero. That is, if Rob Gronkowski has a signature game-winning catch, similar to four years ago when Eli Manning delivered a spectacular pass that was caught, even more unbelievably by David Tyree.
So is this the moment the Patriots return the favor in the rematch of Super Bowl XXII? The issue here is, Gronkowski has a sprained left ankle that has garnered so much attention, hijacking any thoughts of Manning surpassing big brother or discussions on whether Brady can beat the Giants.
All week, there has been much dialogue on Gronkowski’s injury, more than enough medical reports, one that leaves Bill Belichick scratching his head, even though he sticks to his standards by keeping quiet and not providing enough clarity on his health status.
For Gronkowski, a 22-year-old almighty tight end from Connecticut, this would be a time in his career that he emerges from the tunnel and play in his first ever Super Bowl to make a huge impact for the Patriots, when he has vividly sprouted into an All-Pro tight end.
Two days away from the Super Bowl, Gronkowski, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in the AFC Championship, has been nursing the severe sprain and been wearing a walking boot since being injured.
Already, he is listed as questionable by the New England Patriots. Any comparisons to Terrell Owens’ ankle at Super Bowl XXXIX and Dwight Freeney’s injured ankle at Super Bowl XLIV, which reminds us of the pain Gronkowski must be feeling this week while anxious to suit up and play, are identical to the prior injuries that had fans speculating an entire week on whether they’d be active to perform in the national scene. It’s a huge loss for the Patriots, if Gronkowski is a non-factor and inactive for the Super Bowl, an event that New England earnestly wants to win, angling to avenge an upsetting defeat four years ago.
It’s a nervous time right now, but because he’s limited in practice after suffering the injury 11 days ago doesn’t mean he won’t be healthy in time for Sunday’s epic rematch. And as of Friday, he was seen walking without a limp as the Patriots were routinely running schemes in their offensive plays.
If Gronkowski, while he has proved to be a dominant tight end and deemed as one of the most important players for New England, is making progress each day and not a medical risk, it would surely be simple to assume that he’ll be available by kick off Sunday. But sometimes, when a player is recuperating from an unbending injury, there is a sense he won’t effectively motion to the right, create separation and run clean routes.
“He practiced yesterday. He didn’t do anything today,” Belichick said. “We’ll see where he’s at on Sunday, but hopefully (he’ll play). I saw no setbacks. He’s still making progress.”
If Belichick calls for him, despite his body language at media day Tuesday that may have indicated he’s unhealthy before the big game, Gronkowski will be ready to play and, no doubt in our minds, he will likely be a vital factor to dictate how well the Patriots are offensively. The mantle of painstaking craft and toughness is what defines a skilled megastar that scored the second most touchdowns in the NFL this season.
But as you and I know, this is the Patriots, a team that psychologically use a strategy approach on injuries, as it is normally unclear when a Patriots’ player suffers an injury.
In other words, Belichick and the Patriots are never open publicly or specific about a player’s illness — declining to speak on every players’ health, refusing to say anything to the media. It’s been that way for years, at least for what I know.
And it’s not changing anytime soon. As long as Belichick is the coach, and if one of his main players fall to an injury, the Patriots will reserve judgment without even saying anything. And that is exactly why Gronkowski hasn’t disclosed further detail of interest pertaining to the Patriots organization, which would be the sprained ankle he damaged. He has been an instrumental presence and, according to Gronkowski, his ankle is improving every day.
We shall see Sunday.
He is, however, the offensive weapon on the field, a primary target for Brady to complete a record-setting night in passing at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. Without Gronkowski, there’s no telling whether the Patriots would be here or watching the game at home.
Without Gronkowski, the Patriots would be maybe an average team. He has been a key essential, both in an influential and physical perspective, for the Patriots prolific offense that has been dangerous and inevitably difficult to defend — the groundwork of New England’s success this season.
And because the Patriots chose to not discuss injuries, it’s hard to confirm a player’s status when it’s uncertain. This, right here is ambiguity, as no one really knows if Gronkowski is going to play, and if so, how effective he’ll be by the time he steps onto the field.
He has been working hard with trainers all week, taking rehabilitation assignments every day to return to form, then staying focus on regaining good health, at least enough to run with the ball at a high level.
If he does step onto the field, Gronkowski greatest strength lies within him — the evolution to become a wide receiver, in which he has played like a receiver, able to perfectly run in the slot and sprint in a passing route that creates space for him to grab the ball for a significant chunk of yards. The fortitude and energy with which he plays offensively has capped a sensational season for the 6-foot-5, 265-pound beast called “Gronk” had 90 catches for 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns — setting an NFL record for receiving yards by a tight end this season.
So what in the world would the Patriots be like without Gronk?
It would probably be a challenge overpowering the Giants. From a real perspective, Gronkowski is the key to beating the New York Football Giants, if nothing else. In less than 24 hours, we’ll know if he’s well enough to play a role in the game. It’s rather eye-opening that he is strong and physically built.
By now, every opponent — including the Giants realize he’s their worst nightmare. There’s no doubt in my mind, as well as most of you, that he will play Sunday. I expect to see him in the game, just as much as you expect it. But what comes to mind is that he won’t be 100 percent at game time.
The question is, as of now, how effective will he be for the game?