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A little healthy skepticism about Gronk

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  February 1, 2012 10:44 AM

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Today, as much as ever, I worry about Gronk. The Patriots put Rob Gronkowski out there for the world to see yesterday at Super Bowl media day, and the Patriots all but fell over themselves trying to convince us that Gronk is getting better.

Pardon the expression …

But my foot.

"Well, he's obviously making progress, he's out of his boot today, which is making me feel better," offered quarterback Tom Brady. "I told him to write 'Hi Mom' on his sock, because there will be a lot of pictures today. ... No one is as tough as him, he makes our offense go. Hopefully we have him out there."

No fools, those Patriots. They knew Gronkowski would be an obvious focus yesterday. They subsequently sent him into public without his protective boot. Brady all but encouraged people to take pictures of Gronkowski’s feet – which we did – while Gronkowski emphasized, over and over again, that he is taking things day by day.

Clearly, the detail-oriented Bill Belichick wanted it out there that Gronkowski’s status is improving.

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Gronkowski will likely play Sunday. The question is how effectively and for how long, something that Belichick and the Patriots knew days ago. The moment Gronkowski went down in the AFC Championship Game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium, anyone with half a brain knew that the colossus who serves as New England’s all-galaxy tight end had suffered a high ankle sprain – or worse.

Since that time, it has been reported that Gronkowski had at least “some” ligament damage and that he will likely need surgery to repair his ankle after the Super Bowl. And yet, there was Gronkowski yesterday, questioned by everyone from Maria Menounos to Dan Shaughnessy - now there’s a spectrum for you - about the health of a left ankle that might as well have been propped up on a chair.

Why didn’t the Patriots just hand out results of Gronkowski’s X-rays or medical reports? Couldn’t he have at least taken his socks off?

We all know what Gronkowski means to the Patriots offense. If and when a movie is made about the 2011 Patriots, the lovable Gronkowski would be played by Dolph Lundgren. This season, Gronkowski had the greatest season ever put forth by a tight end in the history of the NFL. He is the prototype for what a tight end should be. Gronkowski is so big, fast, strong, quick and tough that one cannot help but wonder if, at birth, his mother held him by the back of the ankles and dipped him in to the river Styx.

Nonetheless – and unfortunately – Gronkowski is human, ultimately vulnerable to the same injuries and pitfalls as any man.

As has been noted in recent days, the dreaded high ankle sprain is typically an injury that requires somewhere in the neighborhood of six weeks to heel. Last night, on local television, former Patriots receiver Troy Brown said he still sometimes feels the effects of a high ankle sprain. Former Patriots defensive back Ty Law said it was foolish for Gronkowski to be out of his boot. In recent years, Pittsburgh Steelers Maurkice Pouncey and Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney both suffered high ankle sprains during the playoffs.

Freeney played in the Super Bowl and, by his own admission, was reasonably effective for about a half. Pouncey did not play at all.

So now, 10 days removed from Gronkowski’s injury, is anyone seriously going to argue that Gronkowski will be himself come Sunday? Please. Let’s not be delusional about this. The Patriots have to prepare this week as if they will have a severely compromised Gronkowski, assuming they have him at all. If Gronkowski somehow manages to give the team more on Sunday night, fabulous. Gronkowski didn’t miss a practice during the regular season, so the Patriots will have no difficulty adjusting on the fly to accommodate him.

Earlier this week, without tipping his hand on Gronkowski, Patriots president Jonathan Kraft suggested that injuries generally fall into two categories: the kind that can lead to permanent damage if handled recklessly, and the kind that merely extend rehabilitation time if dealt with in the same manner. Kraft gave no hint as to whether Gronkowski fell into either class, but it is difficult to imagine the Patriots putting Gronkowski’s career in jeopardy, even if this is the Super Bowl.

During his time as coach of the Patriots, Belichick has treated injuries as highly classified information. Publicly, at least, the Patriots often acknowledge nothing. Now the Patriots are back in the Super Bowl for the fifth time in the Belichick era and first time in four years, and Belichick’s favorite son, Brady, is pointing out that Gronkowski is “obviously” making progress and that Gronkowski is “out of his boot.”

Call me a cynic, but I’m still not sure what that all means some Sunday.

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About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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