Rob Gronkowski Expects to Clear Concussion Protocol, Play in Super Bowl LII

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 31, 2018

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski faces reporters during a news conference following an NFL football practice Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steven Senne/Associated Press

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski told reporters Tuesday night he's hoping to be out of the concussion protocol Wednesday and said he will play in Sunday's Super Bowl against the Philadelphia Eagles, according to Kimberly Jones of NFL Network.

Gronkowski, 28, left the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars with a concussion in the second quarter after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit from safety Barry Church, who was fined $24,309 for the illegal collision.

"We'll see how it goes and what the doctors say," Gronkowski said, per Mike Reiss of "I'm not the guy to say I'm out of the protocol. That is the doctor's call."

The Eagles, of course, always expected Gronkowski to play.

"Gronk is playing in this game," safety Malcolm Jenkins said Thursday, per George Willis of the New York Post. "At least that's how we're going to prepare for them."

Jenkins also broke down the challenges of facing Gronkowski.

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"For Gronk to be as big as he is—if you watch the tape, a lot of the routes that he's running and the balls he's getting are down the field," he noted. "He does a great job with his body, positioning himself between the defender and the ball, and catches everything in his radius. In the red zone, he's a whole different monster."

The dynamic tight end had groin and thigh injuries in 2017 but still registered 69 receptions for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns in 14 games. He has an impressive 76 touchdowns in just 102 regular-season games. This postseason, he has seven receptions for 102 yards and a score—his 10th postseason touchdown in 12 contests.

But Gronkowski's impact extends beyond the field.

"I think he's got a great personality and a way about him," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said after Gronkowski returned to practice Saturday, per Ross Gienieczko of the Boston Herald. "He definitely has a joyfulness to him, and he brings that to the team, and it's a great attribute of his and always has been since he got here."

Added right guard Shaq Mason: "It's always a different vibe when he's out there. He brings a lot of energy, and of course he makes plays. So it's a great time when he's out there."

Still, it's Gronkowski's ability to cause mismatches and make plays in the red zone that are most valuable to the Patriots. Having him in the lineup against a tough Eagles defense would be a major boon for Brady and the offense as New England seeks its sixth title in 17 years.