The New England Patriots' greatest fears regarding Rob Gronkowski reportedly have been confirmed, as the All-Pro tight end will miss the remainder of the 2013 season after suffering a torn ACL and damaged MCL in his right knee.
The team has yet to confirm the diagnosis, but Pro Football Talk cites a source close to the situation, who claims word spread after an MRI on Monday morning:
MRI confirms torn ACL for Rob Gronkowski, per league source.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) December 9, 2013
MRI also shows MCL damage for Rob Gronkowski. The ACL tear puts him out for the year and will affect his preparation for 2014.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) December 9, 2013
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk is reporting that Gronkowski also suffered a concussion on the play:
Per a league source, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a concussion along with his knee injury as a result of the hit he absorbed from Browns defensive back T.J. Ward. Gronkowski’s head banged against the turf at Gillette Stadium after Ward’s shot to the knee toppled Gronkowski to the ground.
The concussion, we’re told, is slight. But it’s still a concussion.
The Patriots later placed Gronkowski on season-ending IR, making the move official on the team's Twitter account:
We've placed TE Rob Gronkowski on season-ending injured reserve & re-signed TE D.J. Williams: http://t.co/IfqUHmQx6o— New England Patriots (@Patriots) December 9, 2013
Word came Sunday night that the Patriots feared a torn ACL for Gronkowski (h/t Boston Globe's Jim Hoban), who was injured in the third quarter of New England's 27-26 win over the Cleveland Browns. Gronkowski suffered the injury when he was hit low by Browns safety T.J. Ward at the Cleveland 34-yard line following a 21-yard reception.
The impact of Ward's hit buckled Gronkowski's knee in the fashion typically associated with major knee damage. New England's medical staff worked on the 24-year-old tight end's leg for an extended period while he lay on the Gillette Stadium turf, and he was eventually taken off the field on a cart.
After the game, Ward indicated that he went low on Gronkowski to avoid a fine from the NFL, which has regularly penalized players five-figure sums for helmet-to-helmet hits. Per Zuri Berry of Boston.com, the 26-year-old safety denied any allegations that he targeted the knee with any malice:
My intention is never to hurt anyone. That’s not what this game is about. That’s not how I play. I hate to see guys go down with any type of injury. I just wanted him to know, whether he accepted it or not, it wasn’t an intentional hit to injure him, but we have to play this game. We have to play it the way that they force us to, and unfortunately, it incurred an injury for him.
Can the Patriots win the Super Bowl without Rob Gronkowski?
New England, which needed an onside kick and a last-minute touchdown to defeat Cleveland, is now left scrambling without its best offensive weapon for the second time in 2013. Gronkowski missed the first six games of the season while recovering from multiple surgeries on his forearm and a procedure on his back done this offseason.
Although he was still dealing with bumps and bruises related to those offseason troubles, there's no questioning Gronkowski opens the offense for Tom Brady. The fourth-year tight end had 39 receptions for 592 yards and four touchdowns over his seven games back in the lineup. New England's overall offensive firepower has also improved, as the Patriots have scored 11.2 more points per game with Gronkowski than without.
Speaking to Field Yates of ESPN, Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged Monday that the situation wasn't looking good for his team:
Bill Belichick on TE Rob Gronkowski "Rob's going to have some more tests today, but that situation doesn't look too good."— Field Yates (@FieldYates) December 9, 2013
Michael Hoomanawanui is listed second on the Patriots' tight end depth chart, but it's unlikely he'll be able to match Gronkowski's production. Instead, an increased responsibility will be laid at the feet of Julian Edelman and the injury-prone Danny Amendola.
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