It was announced today that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will not take part in joint practices this week with the Washington Redskins. Despite being cleared to play by coach Bill Belichick, this should not be cause for concern, however, his overall health may be still.
After his latest season-ending injury, an ACL tear last December, Gronkowski has understandably been subjected to question after question in regard to his ability to remain healthy for an entire season. As one of the largest, most agile and athletic tight ends in the NFL, Gronkowski is readily targeted by other teams and at times can only be dragged down by three players at a time. His sheer size requires extra coverage by opposing defenses, causing him to shimmy his way out of various tackles.
Gronkowski is an amazing player — there is no doubt about that — but the possibility that his size and athleticism are his own worst enemy is a valid argument. Since being selected as the 42nd overall pick by the Patriots in the 2010 NFL Draft, Gronkowski has suffered a serious injury in three of his four seasons. In the 2011 postseason, he suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game with the Baltimore Ravens. Although he went on to play in the Super Bowl just two short weeks later, his injury had an obvious effect on his ability to be a game-changing teammate. The injury later required surgery to repair.
The following season, Gronkowski broke his left forearm in Week 11. He made a brief comeback late in the season before re-injuring the forearm in the playoffs. The injury once again required surgery to repair and he was lost for the remainder of the Patriots’ playoff run.
Over the years, Gronkowski has solidified his ability to be a game-changing teammate on the gridiron but also his ability to injure himself from head-to-toe. Despite his Pro Bowl status, it is entirely possible that Gronkowski is simply injury prone, leaving constant worry in the minds of many of his fans. Every time he is tackled, I find myself holding my breath, hoping that he will stand up without clutching any part of his body or with a grimace on his face.
Not participating in joint practice with the Redskins is no cause for concern and simply precautionary, but fans should remain wary when Gronkowski does finally return to the Patriots’ lineup. His injury history is one of the more lengthy in the NFL, and at just 25 years old I would doubt he is done quite yet.