New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was carted off the field with right knee injury in the third quarter Sunday.
Gronkowski is scheduled for an MRI on Monday to confirm the team's initial diagnosis of a torn ACL, FOX Sports reported moments after the Patriots completed a furious comeback for a 27-26 win.
"To me, it's tough for (Gronkowski). Of course, as a team, we want him to play. But the first thing I thought was everything he went through to get back out here and how hard he's worked," defensive back Devin McCourty said. "I just hope he's alright. As a team, we'll do what we have to do. But as a teammate, as a friend and as a player, you just hate to see that for him. A guy that's battled back through his arm and his back and been very productive for us this year, it stinks to see him get carted off the field like that."
With the Patriots trailing 12-0 midway through the third quarter, Gronkowski was blasted on his knee by Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward, a notorious big hitter who hit the Patriots' All-Pro tight end.
"(Ward) was tackling him low and just trying to get him on the ground," Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said of the play. "I don't think there was anything to that. Clearly it looked like Gronkowski was able to take a few steps on it after he caught it and was running. And TJ just went low to try to get him on the ground. Of course, you hate to see any player ever injured. Gronkowski is a great player and I don't know the severity of the injury, but I hope he is back. You know, you hate to see that happen."
Gronkowski's right leg wasn't planted when Ward made the hit, but he went from the playing surface to the motorized cart without putting any weight on his right side. Ward was one of several players from both teams to meet Gronkowski on the cart to shake his hand before he left the field.
Ward said "injury is never my intention."
"That was a lot of respect that Cleveland paid there too," said tight end Matthew Mulligan. "When you have a good player like him, and you know all the struggles that he has gone through already, to have something like that, I think it is catastrophic and everybody feels it. It is what it is, but as far as (the game goes), we knew we had a job to do. You have to be able to weather different things that happen in a game. Whether it be injuries or whatever it may be in a game, that's why you continue to play for 60 minutes and I think as a team we did a great job."
Gronkowski, 24, missed the first six games of the season recovering from multiple forearm surgeries. The fourth-year pro also had back surgery in the offseason.