One of the best sights of Sunday’s Patriots win against the Dolphins was seeing Tight End, Rob Gronkowski, back on the field. Gronkowski had missed 5 weeks after breaking his forearm during an extra point attempt late in the 4th quarter of a Patriots blow out against the Colts. Since his injury, the Patriots had won all but one game, but not having Gronkowski on the offense hurt ,as the offense didn’t play as well as they should have.
Along with being a fan favorite, Gronkowski has been a favorite target for Tom Brady. Gronk has been so reliable, Brady knows he can almost always look to Gronk, and he’ll be open, or he’ll get open. In the five games Gronk missed, Brady threw for 5 interceptions. Before Gronk got injured, Brady had thrown just 3 interceptions in the 10 games prior. Not having Gronk on the field seemed to hurt Brady, as he had one less reliable body to throw to.
When Gronkowski starting practicing with the team again a few weeks ago, the big question was when would his return would be. Leading up to the game against the Dolphins on Sunday Head Coach, Bill Belichick, like always had nothing to say about Gronk or whether or not he would play in the game. In fact nobody knew if Gronk would even be listed as active until the deadline for posting Inactives came on game day. When Gronk wasn’t put on the Inactive list, it appeared he would get to see playing time before the playoffs.
It may have been that the Colts were beating the Texans as the reason Belichick played Gronk on Sunday, and it made Sundays game worth winning, or Belichick might have just wanted to get Gronk into an actual game before the playoffs started. Either way, It’s certain the Patriots didn’t want a repeat of what happened earlier in the season to Tight End, Aaron Hernandez. Early in the year Hernandez had missed time with and injury, and the team seemed to rush him back onto the field because after his first game back, he got re-injured, and he ended missing even more time than he would have, had he not been rushed back.
The Patriots definitely didn’t want to do that with Gronk. Last year in a record breaking year, Gronk helped the Patriots get the Super Bowl. But in the AFC championship game he was injured by Baltimore Raven Bernard Pollard, and he seemed to be playing in the Super Bowl with an injured ankle. In the Super Bowl, Gronkowski only had 2 catches for 26 yards. It has been argued, and it can continue to be argued, that if Gronk had been healthy in the Super Bowl, the Patriots would have easily beaten the Giants.
With Gronk being such an important piece to a championship caliber team, I think it was a great for Belichick to play Gronk before the playoffs started. It gets Gronk back into the game routine, and shows the fans, and the rest of the team that their ready to compete for the Lombardi Trophy. Gronk only had 2 receptions, one of which was a touchdown, but he seemed to play like he normally does. With the win on Sunday, the Patriots secured a first round bye, and there’s no doubt Gronk, and the Patriots will use that to their advantage, to spend more time resting up the injuries they have.
Whether the Patriots end up playing the Colts, Texans, or Ravens next Sunday, there shouldn’t be a concern that Gronkowski won’t be ready. He showed he was ready last week, and in the playoffs, everyone plays like there is no tomorrow, because for one team there isn’t.