T. J. Ward goes low … and collided with Rob Gronkowski’s knee. (Elise Amendola / AP)

The New England Patriots lost tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has struggled with injuries over the last year, to what teammates said was a “nasty,” “gruesome” knee injury on a low hit Sunday afternoon.

Gronkowski, Fox Sports’ Mike Garafolo reported, suffered a torn right anterior cruciate ligament on the hit by T.J. Ward of the Cleveland Browns. Gronk, according to Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, was taken to a Boston hospital, where he is expected to have an MRI on Monday.

“I’m heart-broken for him with what he’s gone through at such a young age,” Matt Slater said, (via Brendan Fitzgerald). “He brings a child-like joy to locker room.”

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Although Ward and other members of the Browns spoke with Gronkowski before he was carted off, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was clearly displeased. And the hit, while clean under NFL rules, is only going to reignite the debate over whether players would rather risk blows to the head or to the lower legs.