New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is done for the year after a low hit from Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward reportedly tore the ACL and MCL in the two-time Pro Bowler's right knee. Ward has since become the subject of some criticism for his tackle, but after the game he defended his actions.
Ward, 26, told reporters, including Tom Reed of Cleveland.com, that the hit was a consequence of increased rules to protect the head of players:
"When they set the rule, everyone knew what was going to happen," Ward said. "This can happen if you have those types of situations. It's pretty much inevitable and they forced our hand with this one."
In previous seasons, Ward has been the subject of fines for high hits, including a $25,000 fine he earned for delivering a concussion to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree with a helmet-to-helmet hit in 2012:
"I've been fined three times, and I don't like playing for free. If you go ask anybody in this league would they like to play for free? No. Repeat offenders, they're starting to suspend people for the year. I can't risk that. I won't risk that. And, I've got to play within the rules, point blank."
Ward, a second round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, was not penalized for the play and finished the game with eight tackles.