In the third quarter of the New England Patriots 27-26 victory over the Cleveland Browns, Pats TE Rob Gronkowski took an ugly hit to his right knee and was carted off of the field. Reports have come out saying that Gronk tore his ACL, and sources have told me that it could be even more significant. No matter the case, it is evident that the Patriots will be without their All Pro Tight End for the remainder of the season. Usually, the Patriots are able to replace players that go down with an injury, but there is no player in the NFL that can match what Rob Gronkowski does. Back in May, I took a look at the Gronkowksi extension, and I think now is a good time to look at it again.
The Patriots awarded Gronkowski a six year, $54 million extension back in 2012 that will run through the 2019 season. So far in his young career, he has gone through two back surgeries, four surgeries on his right forearm, one surgery on his ankle, and is now set to go under the knife for a right knee reconstruction. For a player who has missed so many games due to injuries, it just puts into perspective how amazing his stats truly are. In just 49 career games, Gronk has compiled 224 catches for a total of 3,223 yards, and an amazing 42 touchdowns. He also set the record for most yards and touchdowns for a Tight End back in 2011 with 1,327 yards and 17 touchdowns respectively. Monster numbers for a monster player.
One thing Gronk was criticized greatly for this year was taking so much time to come back from his offseason surgeries. After reports said Gronkowski could have returned to the field this season as early as Week 3, we didn’t see Gronk on the gridiron until Week 7. He was extremely cautious, and did not want to risk another injury to his forearm. Now facing major knee reconstruction, when can we expect to see Gronkowski back on the field again?
Well, an ACL injury tends to have a recovery time of 9-12 months. That would put a possible return of opening day 2014 at the earliest, and early December at the latest. We have seen players return from this type of injury in quick fashion. Patriots WR Wes Welker tore his ACL in January of 2010, and joined the team for the start of training camp just six months later. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in late December of 2011 and also rejoined the Vikings in July for training camp. Redskins QB Robert Griffin III tore his ACL in January of 2013, and also returned to the team in time for the Redskins first game.
With Gronkowski, I expect him to once again use caution while returning from this injury. I would be surprised if we saw Gronk on the field before Week 6 at the earliest (as I expect the Patriots to place him on the PUP list during training camp. The earliest he would be able to return, per rules, would be Week 6).
It is still early on in the process, and we still don’t know the full severity of the injury. However, maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing to give a guy coming off of ankle surgery a six year extension. Injuries are a part of the game, and it certainly isn’t Gronkowski’s fault that he has gotten some pretty unfortunate injuries. But the fact remains that Gronk will once again be unavailable for the Patriots moving into the playoffs. I’m not saying that extending Gronk was the wrong move to make for the Patriots, but I am starting to question if he can ever truly live up to the deal he signed exactly 18 months ago.