COMMENTARY | The New England Patriots were able to pull off a victory against the Cleveland Browns, but I'm sure they would trade that victory to have a healthy Rob Gronkowski for the rest of the year. Nobody wants to see something like this happen.
As Patriots fans held their breath, Gronk left the game after being hit low. According to reports, New England's star tight end is now out for the remained of the year with a torn ACL and MCL. This is obviously devastating news as the Patriots prepare for a run at the Super Bowl without Tom Brady's favorite weapon.
TJ Ward is the safety that delivered the low hit on Gronk, and he admits that he was scared to go high because of a potential fine. We've seen players get fined over and over for hits to the head, and defensive players are now forced to tackle low. The concussion crisis and subsequent lawsuits scared the league into changing the way games are officiated, and Gronk is the latest victim of how defensive players have to adjust.
Ward is not in the wrong here. He did what he had to do to tackle the massive Gronkowski without having to worry about getting fined. If he tries to go high and ends up hitting Gronk in the helmet, he might be looking at both a penalty flag and a lighter wallet. He seemed remorseful in Globe article linked above, as he clearly understands the severity of the situation.
At what point does the NFL and Roger Goodell draw the line? Concussions are certainly a legitimate concern, but football is being changed before our very eyes. Defensive players are terrified to tackle a player high, and the result is more chop tackles like this one. It's getting tough to play defense in the NFL, and players have to resort to taking out a player's lower half. Keep in mind, players wear helmets for a reason. Is there that kind of protection on a player's knees?
Is a blown out knee a better outcome than a concussion?
Gronk is out for a while, and we don't know if he'll ever be the same player. We'll have to go through the playoffs possibly wondering what could have been, as the Patriots are not the same Super Bowl contender with Gronk on the sideline. Ward clearly feels bad, as does the entire Patriots community.
Something needs to change. In the meantime, we'll have to deal with great players losing entire seasons to knee injuries that are a direct result of NFL rule changes.
Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering New England sports for various blogs over the past 4 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings.
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