Given the unusual circumstances, with a two-week gap between the AFC championship game and Super Bowl LII, the Patriots did not hold a practice Wednesday. But they were still required by NFL rules to release an injury report, and it listed Rob Gronkowski as having a concussion.
Gronkowski was also categorized as a practice nonparticipant, meaning that if New England were running drills Wednesday, it would not have expected its star tight end to be active. Gronkowski was knocked out of Sunday’s 24-20 victory over the Jaguars when Jacksonville safety Barry Church landed a helmet-to-helmet hit on a second-quarter pass play, after which the Patriots player was visibly shaken.
According to ESPN, Wednesday’s report marked the first time New England formally acknowledged that Gronkowski was dealing with a concussion. He will have to pass the league’s medical protocol before being cleared to play, so the extra time before the Super Bowl is played Feb. 4 should help, but there is no timetable for his return.
On Monday, the Patriots’ Matthew Slater said Gronkowski “was in pretty good spirits today when I spoke to him,” according to the Boston Herald, which also reported that the team was “optimistic” the tight end would play in the Super Bowl. Nevertheless, the uncertain status of New England’s top receiving weapon is sure to remain a major topic of concern among the team’s fans, at least until they — and he himself, of course — get some better news.
Less of a worry for New England supporters, presumably, is the health of Tom Brady’s throwing hand, which received a gash in a practice last week. The veteran quarterback had a bandage on his hand during the game against the Jaguars, but it did not appear to hinder him, considering he completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns.
“This was a little injury at the end of the day,” Brady said Monday. ” . . . I mean, I’ve had a lot worse injuries than this. If this was on my left hand, I could care less, but just based on where it was, we had to deal with it.”
In Gronkowski’s absence Sunday, wide receiver Danny Amendola stepped up with two touchdowns, adding 84 yards on seven receptions, and Brandin Cooks had 100 yards on six catches. With Gronkowski out after back surgery last season, the Patriots mounted a run to a Super Bowl title, as Martellus Bennett filled in ably at tight end.
Bennett is no longer on the roster, leaving New England in a bit more precarious position with Dwayne Allen and Jacob Hollister as Gronkowski’s only backups. Per ESPN, this is the first time the oft-injured Gronkowski, now in his eighth season, has been listed with a concussion.
Not surprisingly, taciturn Patriots Coach Bill Belichick offered few details about his tight end Wednesday. “We’ll be complying with the NFL injury report and when that’s required, we’ll put it on,” Belichick said when asked whether he expected Gronkowski to be cleared to play in the Super Bowl.
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