Rob Gronkowski spent nearly two weeks in the NFL’s concussion protocol ever since the Patriots booked yet another trip to the Super Bowl. On Thursday, he was officially given the green light to play in his first Super Bowl since 2015.
ROB GRONKOWSKI#Patriots TE @RobGronkowski talks about being cleared from #NFL concussion protocol and being ready to play in #SBLII #SB52 #WBZ #gronk #Eagles #NotDone pic.twitter.com/EdsWGYkyx1— Scott Sullivan (@SullyBunz) February 1, 2018
Gronkowski left the Patriots’ AFC Championship win over the Jaguars after suffering a concussion in the second quarter. Bill Belichick confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that Gronkowski was limited in practice, but he remains in the concussion protocol, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that he’s not concerned about Gronkowski’s preparation, and that Dwayne Allen will be prepared to step up if Gronkowski is unable to play. But Gronkowski was set to speak with the media on Thursday afternoon, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. That’s not permitted unless the player has cleared the concussion protocol.
On Tuesday, Gronk told Anderson that he’ll play on Sunday.
Gronk's response when asked if he'll play in the Super Bowl: pic.twitter.com/MpZlGaqY7V— ESPN (@espn) January 31, 2018
Gronkowski also provided his own injury update via Instagram on Monday.
What happened to Gronkowski? Gronkowski was concussed when Jaguars safety Barry Church landed a jarring hit to Gronkowski’s helmet during the Patriots’ 24-20 comeback win over the Jaguars. Church was flagged for unnecessary roughness and fined $24,309 for the hit.
What’s the latest from Super Bowl practice? The Patriots held Gronkowski out of practice for the entire bye week between the conference championship and the postseason. But Gronkowski participated in some of the Patriots’ football-specific drills on Saturday.
He caught a few uncontested passes in the portion of practice the Patriots allowed media to watch, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss. That suggests he’s close to being cleared for full participation. On Thursday, he finally got the OK from team doctors to resume full football activities.
What are people saying about Gronk’s status? While Gronkowski is off limits to the media, his teammates are fielding plenty of questions about whether or not the tight end will play against the Eagles on Sunday.
“It’s always great to have him out there,” Tom Brady said after Saturday’s practice, via Reiss. “He’s a great player, great person, great teammate and a big part of what we do. So it obviously hurts when he’s not out there for a lot of reasons, but he’s doing the best he can do, and we’re all hopeful.”
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said Tuesday that the Patriots are “optimistic” Gronkowski will be able to play against the Eagles.
What does this mean for the Patriots? If Gronkowski wasn’t able to go on Sunday, it would have been a blow to an offense that’s already missing Julian Edelman, who tore his ACL during the preseason.
Eagles defensive end Chris Long, who played for the Patriots in 2016, knows the difference it will make for New England to have Gronk on the field.
“He’s an awesome player and somebody who you have to be ready to play,” Long said. “He’s so unique. In my opinion, I’m not an expert historian, but you’d have to really sell me on there being a better tight end that ever played.”
Instead, Brady will have the biggest mismatch-maker in the NFL at his disposal now that Gronkowski has been cleared. He is the Patriots’ leading receiver this season with 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in the regular season.