Will Gronkowski be able to play?
And if so, how effectively?
Make of it what you will, but the most significant news about Gronkowski came this morning when his father, Gordy, told a New York television station that his son has a high left ankle sprain suffered during Sunday's AFC Championship victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Earlier in the week, the Herald's Ian Rapaport reported that Gronkowski has "some" ligament damage in the ankle. Some. Precisely how much, of course, is entirely unknown to those of us on the outside, though anyone who saw Gronkowski felled by Ravens safety Bernard Pollard winced when Gronkowski's left ankle folded unnaturally inward, as if breaking the binding of a book.
Given the Patriots' history when it comes to discussing injuries -- and nobody is blaming them for this -- the word "some" is rather worrisome. Anyone who has worked in the media will tell you that bad news often comes in diluted form -- if we get it at all. In these cases, many of us apply to the iceberg theory, which is to say that the majority of the story is still beneath the surface.
Translation: If someone in Foxborough is whispering that there is "some" ligament damage, there is likely to be a good deal more.
Purely for the record, here is what Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick said when asked about Gronkowski yesterday:
Reporter: Do you have any doubt Rob Gronkowski will be ready for the game?
Brady: I have no idea. I'm not sure. I think everyone deals with bumps and bruises this time of year. It's the Super Bowl so we're all trying to get out there and be healthy. It would suck to miss this game. You put all the work in over the course of the entire year and to have the opportunity to play in this game, you know everyone is going to be doing everything they can to be out there.
Reporter: How would you describe the progress of Rob Gronkowski?
Belichick: Good, good.
Reporter: If Rob Gronkowski doesn't practice but does play in the game, how much does that affect what you're able to do on the practice field, or do you just rely on the previous 105 practices? I think he was out there for pretty much all of them.
Belichick: Right, yeah I think he was, yeah. We'll just have to see, you know. Today, he's not going to practice today, so we'll take it day-by-day. I'm not going to try to forecast where things will be 10 days from now. We'll just take it day-by-day.
Not a whole lot of information there, right? Brady referred to "bumps and bruises," but does anyone really believe that those words apply in this case? And when Belichick says nothing more than "good, good," the terse nature of the reply only reinforces the notion that the information is sensitive.
Gronkowski is not just hurt. He's injured. And if his ankle or lower leg is hurt badly enough, you can bet your bottom dollar that his own personal advisers are getting involved to insure that Gronkowski's interests, too, are being protected.
To wit: remember the flap between the Red Sox and Jacoby Ellsbury concerning the broken ribs that sidelined Ellsbury for much of 2010? By the time the matter got settled - and we use that term loosely - Ellsbury was rehabilitating in Arizona and consulting his own medical team. As it turns out, Gronkowski's agent is Drew Rosenhaus, who just happens to be the Boras of the NFL. Rest assured that Rosenhaus is hounding the Patriots (and his client) for information about the injury, on which the outcome of the Super Bowl may very well hinge.
If you regard that last perspective as an overstatement, think of what is at stake here. Drafted in the second round of the 2010 draft, Gronkowski signed a four-year contract for $4.4 million. Since that time, his 28 touchdowns rank second to only Houston running back Arian Foster (30) and Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy (29). Gronkowski is coming off the single greatest season ever recorded by a tight end and will soon be positioned (if he is not already) for a gargantuan payday.
None of this should interpreted as any type of reflection on Gronkowski, who has proven to be nothing short of a warrior during his time with the Patriots. On Sunday, in fact, Gronkowski even came back on the field of play after a trip to the locker room, though he did not have another reception. But agents will be agents -- particularly ones like Rosenhaus -- and treatment is not always as simple as ice, tape and painkillers.
What if "some" ligament damage is a lot? What if Gronkowski risks tearing his ankle apart and turning a bad injury into something more career-threatening? What if he plays and is not the same player either during or after the Super Bowl?
Is that worth it?
On the outside, of course, we all say the same thing: get him back out there. As Brady said, "it's the Super Bowl." Brady himself can now tell Gronkowski that there are no guarantees of getting back to the biggest game in sports -- even a 14-2 season in 2010 assured the Patriots of nothing -- and that every opportunity must be maximized. Given that reality, we can all sit here and claim with alleged certainty that we would play on Feb. 5 in Indianapolis, but none of us knows what Gronkowski knows or feels.
The good news, at the moment, is that he still has plenty of time to think about it.
And to wait.
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