Posted on February 1, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
There was never that much doubt, but now it’s all but official: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will playing Super Bowl LII. Gronkowski had a formal meeting with the media Thursday afternoon, which served as confirmation that he’s out of the NFL’s concussion protocol. Players still in the concussion protocol can’t speak with the media. There is now 100% certainty that Gronkowski has been cleared to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“(I) officially got the word today that I was cleared,” said Gronkowski. “So it was super nice to hear from the doctors going through the whole process and I’m ready to roll.”
Gronkowski was originally hurt on a helmet-to-helmet from Jaguars safety Barry Church in the AFC Championship Game. It was clear almost immediately that Gronkowski had a concussion. He was soon ruled out for the rest of the game after just one catch. However, while the NFL fined Church for the hit, Gronkowski didn’t think the hit was dirty.
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“It’s football. It is what it is,” he said of the hit. “It’s a split second to make a decision. It’s running full speed one way. I’m going the other way. It’s just part of the game. It happens. Just got to move on.”
The Patriots managed to rally in the 4th quarter to beat the Jaguars without him. Gronkowski then returned to practice last Saturday in a limited capacity even though he was still in the NFL’s concussion protocol. During a public appearance earlier this week, he expressed confidence that he would be able to play on Sunday.
Had it taken another day for Gronkowski to be cleared from the league’s concussion protocol, there would have been serious questions about whether he’d be able to play. But Gronkowski continued to participate in non-contact drills during practice this week, indicating that his return was imminent.
“It’s good to be out there with the boys,” Gronkowski said after Thursday’s practice. “I will be ready to roll. We knew the whole time I would be good to go. We did it step by step every day and it went smooth.”
Of course, the Eagles have assumed all along that Gronkowski would be able to play in the Super Bowl. Veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins is likely to be matched up against Gronkowski on most plays. Jenkins understands the difficult assignment in front of him but believes the Philadelphia defense can contain Gronkowski, Tom Brady, and the rest of the New England offense.
“I think we match up well,” Jenkins said the day after the NFC Championship Game. “They’ve obviously got a great system, great offense, probably the best quarterback of all time, a great tight end, speedy receivers. They’ve got a real good scheme, and they isolate people, but if there’s any defense out there that can match up with every single person, I think it’s this defense, so we’re looking forward to it.”
It’s worth noting that the Patriots won last year’s Super Bowl without Gronkowski available because of injury. They are also 9-1 since the start of last season in games Gronkowski doesn’t play. However, there’s no denying that Gronkowski is one of the team’s biggest game changers. His presence only enhances New England’s chances of winning Super Bowl LII.