Can Gronk be Gronk again?

Can Gronk be Gronk again?
October 18, 2013, 11:15 am
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(USA Today Sports Images)

Well, so much for the greatest conversation crutch since, “Nice weather we’re having…”
 
The three word interrogatory on everyone’s lips for the past two months: “When’s Gronk playin’? finally has an answer.
 
Sunday.
 
Four arm surgeries, a back surgery, months of recovery and weeks of hand-wringing over whether the epic tight end was ready to play or not ended Friday when agent Drew Rosenhaus said that Rob Gronkowski has been medically cleared to play against the Jets.
 
His left arm, broken last November, re-broken in January and infected through the spring is good to go.
 
It’s been an incredibly difficult recovery for the 24-year-old mentally and physically. Beyond the pain of having multiple surgeries and recovering from them, he had to deal with the uncertainty of whether this time the plate in his arm will hold.
 
You’ll remember, the last time Gronkowski was on the field was January 13. That day, Gronkowski re-broke his left arm when he crashed to the ground on the Patriots sideline. Gronkowski didn’t look like he wanted to be on the field two weeks earlier when he made a cameo against the Dolphins and his apparent concerns over his left arm were realized.
 
Will Gronkowski now be able to play with the same fearlessness he did pre-injury?
 
The long convalescence Gronkowski went through seemed aimed at making sure he does. Gronkowski wasn’t going to play this time until a fleet of folks signed off on his readiness.
 
Last December, when Gronkowski came back against Miami five weeks after breaking the arm, it was clear by the way he protected the arm that he felt compelled to be out there when his mind was telling him he wasn’t ready.
 
It will be telling on Sunday to see how willing he is to put the arm in harm’s way in all facets – blocking, going to the ground, covering up the ball and taking direct punishment.
 
It may not appear seamless at first. And that will be somewhat understandable. And one should expect the Jets to be as physical as possible with him to see where his head is at.
 
Offensively, the Patriots need Gronkowski. They are getting back what was the most devastating combination of power and athleticism at the position. The difference he’ll make on drive starters, on third down and especially in the red zone where he’ll command a double team will make life easier for Tom Brady.
 
With the injuries, inexperience and offseason subtractions the Patriots are dealing with, Gronkowski’s mere presence should help.
 
As for lasting acrimony. We’ll see. Over the last three weeks as Gronk practiced all week then didn’t play on Sunday, whispered questions about his urgency to return became louder. Tensions rose.
 
If Gronkowski comes out and plays like he did before November 18, 2012, all will be forgotten. If he can’t will himself to play like he did or – even worse – suffers the same injury? Look out.