Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski spent the bulk of the offseason coming into this year rehabbing from offseason surgery on his back and forearm, and it looks like he may have to spend the next few months leading into 2014 rehabbing another significant injury as well.
On Sunday Gronkowski was hit low following a 21-yard reception that upended him and sent him crashing to the turf, with the impact from Cleveland Browns' defensive back T.J. Ward's helmet to his knee ending what had already been a long road back into New England's offense. Gronkowski would later be carted off the field, and Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports that the veteran likely suffered a torn ACL that is expected to be season ending.
Even Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who normally doesn't talk about injuries, told the media after the game that the tight end was taken to a local hospital for evaluation on the injury. When asked about whether or not he had any issue with the hit on Gronkowski's knee, he told local reporter Tom Curran that that's a question that should be taken up with the league.
He was also asked about whether or not a win like this was tempered by the loss of one of his players, and Belichick didn't deny that it's a concern.
“Anytime a player gets hurt, you never like to see that," said Belichick. "But I don’t even know what the extent of his injury is yet so I don’t want to jump to conclusions on that.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady told reporters later on that he and the other players each have Gronkowski in their thoughts.
"I don’t know what the circumstances are, but we’re all there with him," said Brady. "We love him, he’s a big part of this team, so we’ll see where he’s at.”
Brady said that despite the loss of one of their best offensive weapons, they just have to move forward because no one is going to feel sorry for them.
"I mean it hurts to see any of those guys go down," said Brady. "Certainly with Gronk, and we’ve sustained some pretty big injuries this year with really important, critical players, so we’ve just got to keep bouncing back. I always say, ‘no one feels sorry for the Patriots.’ I think we all feel sorry for Rob, but I don’t think anyone feels sorry for the Patriots. But we’re with him, we support him.”
It's just a tough blow for a player who worked so hard to get back to where he was and seemed to just now be hitting his stride. Gronkowski had just two receptions for 32-yards following his final catch, but his presence clearly plays a roll in the success of the guys around him. The only positive is the fact that after dealing with his absence, it's not something they're going to have to figure out.
The problem will be down the road as once again they won't have Gronkowski for a full postseason, which marks the third straight season that's been the case. Fortunately for Gronkowski he signed his extension because this would have been the final season of his rookie year, so at least he has the security of that to fall back on. Hopefully when he returns next season he'll be able to pick up where he left off, because in all likelihood he'll be just as important to this team when he hits the gridiron in 2014.