If the worst-case scenario is true for Rob Gronkowski, he's not just going to miss the New England Patriots' playoff push this year, he won't be back until the stretch run next year either.
The Boston Herald reported that further tests showed Gronkowski has a torn MCL to go with the presumed torn ACL, suffered on a low hit by Browns safety T.J. Ward in Sunday's game.
ESPN speculated that injury could knock Gronkowski out as long as a full year.
ESPN doctor Michael Kaplan believes Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski will be out eight to nine months, possibly even a year.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 9, 2013
The Herald pointed out that Wes Welker suffered the same ACL/MCL combination in the final week of the 2009 season and returned for the opener the next year, so it might not take Gronkowski a full year to return. However, Gronkowski has dealt with plenty of injuries through his career, and was slow to return this season from back and forearm issues.
No matter if Gronkowski misses any time in the 2014 season, he's out for the rest of the 2013 season. And it seems like Ward's low hit will force the NFL to examine low hits on defenseless receivers. A low hit on Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller by Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger in the preseason mangled Keller's leg. Now one of the NFL's brightest stars won't be available for the playoffs because of a low hit.
Ward told ESPN.com that he was stuck "between a rock and a hard place" on Gronkowski, a huge and athletic tight end, when he was going for a deep pass. Ward can't hit Gronkowski high because of the NFL's rules, so he made the decision to go low. Ward said he didn't intend to hurt Gronkowski, and prayed for Gronkowski when he didn't get up. He blamed the NFL for the hit.
“When they set the rules, everyone knew what was going to happen,” Ward told ESPN.com. “This can happen if you have those type of situations. It’s pretty much inevitable. And they force our hand with this.”
Given the high profile nature of this hit and injury, it would seem like the option to go low will be taken away from defensive backs like Ward by next season.
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