The Super Bowl is still more than two weeks away, yet the NFL is already dealing with a concussion drama that could have significant effects on the big game.
Rob Gronkowski, one of the New England Patriots’ star players is in the league’s concussion protocol after suffering a head injury during the AFC championship game over the weekend. With no clear sign when he could return, it is possible the concussion could leave Gronkowski on the sideline during the biggest sporting event of the year.
The helmet to helmet hit on Gronk who went to the locker room pic.twitter.com/J9Ce0jKqjM
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) January 21, 2018
The concussion came late in the first half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, when safety Barry Church made a helmet-to-helmet collision with Gronkowski. The hit left Gronkowski visibly unsteady and won the Jaguars a fifteen-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.
It deserves to be recognized that, in this instance, the professional football league responded immediately to the concussion. Gronkowski was taken to the locker room to be evaluated as soon as he was on his feet and was later declared to be out for the game.
The Boston Globe indicates this is Gronkowski’s second recorded concussion in the NFL. The previous concussion occurred in 2013, during a play which also tore his ACL and MCL.
Gronkowski’s latest injury has the world watching how quickly he will recover and whether he will be eligible to play for the Super Bowl. However, it should also have people on watch for questionable behavior.
The Patriots and potentially even the NFL are likely to rush Gronkowski through the concussion protocol as quickly as possible, but there is no rushing a concussion.
The team depends on Gronkowski as a major part of their offensive strategy. Without him in the lineup, they face a considerably greater challenge against the Philadelphia Eagles.
As Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady told WEEI this week, “[Gronkowski’s] so clutch and it hurts when he goes out, it absolutely does.”
Meanwhile, the NFL recognizes that Gronkowski is one of the most popular athletes in the league. He has gained a reputation as a larger-than-life figure who partied hard and hit harder. His previous Super Bowl appearances led to headlines and viral videos when he chugged beers with reporters and on the victory parade float.
Gronkowski draws viewers and the NFL likely wants him to be present for as much of the Super Bowl events as possible, which is unlikely with a concussion.
If Gronkowski does get to play during the biggest football game of the year, it is important he has fully recovered first. Otherwise, he could be putting himself at risk for much worse injury with more serious implications.