Patriots react to Gronk injury, rules on high hits

Patriots react to Gronk injury, rules on high hits
December 8, 2013, 10:15 pm
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FOXBORO – There were two reasons T.J. Ward went low on Rob Gronkowski Sunday.
 
Both had to do with self-preservation.
 
Had the 6-foot, 200-pound Ward tried to take on the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski above the waist, Ward would have wound up a speed bump. A bug on a windshield. Simple physics. That’s the first reason.
 
The second reason – and the one that had the Patriots shaking their heads – was the edict from the NFL imploring defenders to strike low on their targets. A heavy check to the shoulder from Ward may have knocked Gronk down. A missed shoulder that turned into a head shot might have knocked Gronk out. And Ward as well.
 
“You give me the choice between getting hit high and getting hit in the head or getting hit low and having my knees taken out, I’ll take the high shot every time,” said one Patriots defender.
 
“We’re all professional athletes,” said linebacker Rob Ninkovich. “This is our livelihood, this is what we do for a living. But with a receiver coming at you, you can’t go high so you’re gonna go after his legs. Unfortunately, tall guys – tight ends – get the worst of it and they’re getting hit in the knees. Their careers are being affected. There’s been plenty of knee injuries because of the rules in place than there were in the past.”
 
Bill Belichick declined specific comment on Gronkowski’s injury, which is feared to be a torn ACL according to sources.
 
But Gronkowski’s loss cast a pall over the New England locker room after their 27-26 win.
 
“It’s tough,” said Devin McCourty. “I felt like there was a play earlier in the game where I did the same thing (Ward) did. It just sucks because of the angle he got (Gronkowski) at. As defenders, you just don’t want that to happen but you can’t go high. It just sucks to see that happen. I don’t care what side of the ball you’re on, you just gotta feel for any player that happens to on any team. My thoughts are all with him. As a team, we’ll do what we have to do. He’s fought so hard.”
 
Now, the 24-year-old Gronkowski will be bracing for another fight. He is likely facing his sixth surgery in 13 months.

“It’s tough to lose a guy like Gronk,” fullback James Develin said. “He’s a great player, but I’m proud of the way we kind of rallied back in his honor and kind of fought. I mean, he’s the Gronk. He’s a tough guy to lose, but we did what we had to do and we fought it out, and I’m proud of us.”

Fellow tight end Matthew Mulligan echoed Develin, saying, “When you have a good player like him, and you know all the struggles that he’s 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.”

The conversation about whether NFL’s legislation against high hits has put offensive players in line for greater potential from low hits is going to escalate in the wake of the Gronkowski injury.
 
“You hate to see it but it’s the new rules, go low on a guy,” said Brandon Spikes. “Honestly, I don’t approve of it. I can’t play the game that way, watch somebody get put out for the season but those are NFL rules, it is what it is and we gotta do business and business is being done.”