The Gronk Watch: A Super Bowl staple

Will he or won’t he?

Here we go again.

The Rob Gronkowski Watch.

People at the Alvirne-Bedford high school basketball game the other night were all wondering about the tight end’s Super Bowl status.

We were spared that for last year’s New England Patriots seemingly annual Super Bowl hoopla. Gronkowski had suffered a back injury in a late season game at the Meadowlands against the New York Jets, was taken off the field into the locker room and we never saw him the rest of the year.

He needed back surgery, and was reduced to leading the cheers at a Patriots rally in Houston the day before the Super Bowl.

A few years ago, when the Patriots were taking on the New York Giants in Indianapolis in Super Bowl XLVI, Gronkowski’s health was again an issue. When going through airport security in Manchester on the way to Indy, yours truly was asked by a security staffer, “Is Gronk going to play? What do you think?” Yikes.

The big tight end had suffered an ankle injury after being hit by then-Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard in the AFC Championship Game.

Gronkowski played against the Giants, but was basically used as a decoy, with just two receptions for 26 yards in a 21-17 loss. In the days after the game, he had surgery on the ankle as it was revealed he had ligament damage.

And now? Everyone is wondering what Gronkowski’s status is for Super Bowl LII against the Eagles after he suffered a concussion in the first half of this past Sunday’s AFC Championship Game triumph over Jacksonville. He took a helmet to helmet hit by Jaguars safety Barry Church. Church’s hit was illegal, but not dirty, in these eyes. He did draw an unecessary roughness call on the play for hitting a defenseless receiver.

As he said after the game, “I just tried to dislodge the ball. He’s a big dude and I was just trying to dislodge the ball, but I guess they felt it was too high of a hit. I hope he’s healthy. I knew he didn’t come back, so I hope he’s all right.”

It’s the much discussed dilemna most defenders face when playing Gronkowski, whether to go high or go low. “Yes it’s tough,” Church said. “That guy is humongous. If you wait for him to catch it and bring it down, he might run you over.”

In any event, now we wonder how he’s doing in concussion protocol, or even if he’s still in it. There’s no real way you can speculate either way, concussions are such a hot topic but also a sensitive issue that are now treated with extreme care.

The NFL Network reported early Wednesday there were “positive vibes” concerning Gronkowski’s health.

One of the amusing things this time of year is that there are a lot of media not normally around the team that descend on Gillette Stadium during the off-week before teams leave for the Super Bowl.

One such member peppered Belichick with the Gronkowski question on Wednesday. The question “Do you expect him to play?” certainly showed ignorance of (A) how Belichick is with these things and (B) you can’t make that call with concussion protocol 10 days before the game. You can get the effects of a concussion any time. Dumb question.

“Whatever his situationis, whatever his status is, we’ll put it on the injury report,” Belichick said. “We’ll make sure you’re the first one to get it. …

“I don’t want to hold anything back here. We’ll get that out there right away. That’s all we can do.”

The Gronkowski media probing actually began earlier in the week. Special teams captain Matthew Slater was asked how the tight end was doing.

“He was in pretty good spirits (on Monday) when I spoke to him,” Slater said.

We may know soon enough. The Patriots are scheduled to take the practice field again on Thursday, so there will be a practice/injury report. Gronkowski is a captain and is usually made available when healthy, so if he’s speaking in the next few days, we’ll know he’s OK.

He’d obviously be a huge factor. The Eagles, with changes from the team that played the Patriots at Gillette a couple of years ago, don’t have much experience dealing with him or anyone like him defensively.

The Gronk Watch lives on, as we try to read the tea leaves. Again.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251, tking@nashuatelegraph.com., or @Telegraph_TomK.