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The Patriots are optimistic that Rob Gronkowski will be cleared from the concussion protocol before the Super Bowl

Gronk missed the second half of the AFC Championship.

AFC Championship - Jacksonville Jaguars v New England Patriots Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Rob Gronkowski left the Patriots’ AFC Championship matchup against the Jaguars after getting hit in the helmet by Barry Church. Gronkowski was immediately taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion, which the medical staff confirmed. The team ruled him out for the remainder of the game.

He’s in the league’s concussion protocol now, but the team is “optimistic” that he’ll be cleared to practice and play in the Super Bowl against the Eagles.

On Wednesday, the team confirmed he did suffer a concussion against the Jaguars:

On Friday, Gronkowski was held out of practice and wouldn’t have played if the Super Bowl was that Sunday. However, the championship game is still more than a week away.

What happened?

Gronk took the hit in the second quarter of the Patriots’ 24-20 win over the Jaguars in the AFC Championship. As he was going up to catch a pass, Jags safety Barry Church hit him in the head with a helmet-to-helmet shot.

Church was called for unnecessary roughness on the play, giving the Patriots 15 yards and putting the football on Jacksonville’s 45-yard line. Later, Church was also fined for the hit:

The Patriots eventually scored on the drive to make it a 14-10 game in the Jaguars’ favor. Despite not having one of his best weapons for the second half, Tom Brady mounted another fourth-quarter comeback and New England won, 24-20.

The penalty was a good call.

The NFL approved a rule that brought the NCAA’s targeting calls into the pro game. It very liberally adopted much of the language in the actual NCAA rules, too (bolded):

Note 1: “Targeting” means that a player takes aim at an opponent for purposes of attacking with forcible contact that goes beyond making a legal tackle or a legal block or playing the ball. Some indicators of targeting include but are not limited to:

Launch — a player leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make forcible contact in the head or neck area

A crouch followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area, even though one or both feet are still on the ground

Leading with helmet, shoulder, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with forcible contact at the head or neck area

Lowering the head before attacking by initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet

Going into halftime, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said, “The helmet-to-helmet was a good call.”

Church, however, felt there’s no situation in which he can win:

Church claimed he was just trying to “dislodge the ball” when he hit Gronkowski.

“It’s a bang-bang play, and I was just trying to play football. I tried to lead with my shoulder,” Church added.

What is the league’s concussion protocol?

Team personnel and officials are responsible to know how to identify the potential observable signs of concussions. According to the league’s protocol, those are:

  • Any loss of consciousness.
  • Slow to get up following a hit to the head (which can include hitting the head on the playing surface).
  • Motor coordination/balance problems.
  • Blank or vacant look.
  • Disorientation.
  • Clutching of head after contact.
  • Visible facial injury combined with any of the above.

With the NFL’s new concussion protocol rules, players must be taken to the locker room if they show signs of a concussion. The changes came after Tom Savage appeared to suffer a concussion and was able to go back into a game against the 49ers.

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