Recently, Rob Gronkowski has been known more for his crazy antics than his football prowess, but hey, you can’t spell, “Patriots,” without the first part of, “Party,” or something like that. He’s also known as the Pats tight end that only murders dance floors. Gronk is a dynamic player that changes defenses when he’s on the field. He’s averaged 14.4 yards per catch for his career, put up 1,327 receiving yards in just his second season, and has been a powerhouse in the red zone. With both he and Aaron Hernandez missing, Tom Brady‘s suddenly seemed containable.
At the moment, Gronkowski is recovering from a torn ACL. The New England Patriots are saying that they’re optimistic that Gronkowski will be healthy and back on the field for their season opener.
I’ll believe it when I see it.
The injury was suffered early in December, during a Week 14 game against the Cleveland Browns. Gronk tore both his ACL and MCL, but was able to let the MCL heal on its own. While that’s sort of good news (mostly just par for the course), it pushed the surgery to repair his ACL back, leaving Gronk with about 9 months to recover from major knee surgery before the beginning of the season.
Torn knee ligaments are no longer the career-derailing injury that they once were. While knee surgeries have gotten exponentially more successful over the last decade, they are still major operations that require intense rehabilitation before the patient can return to activities, especially in a full-contact sport like football.
For every Adrian Peterson, who has set the bar for recovery time and return performance, there is a Robert Griffin III, who didn’t appear to have full strength in his legs for nearly the entirety of his 2014 season. Then, there’s the NBA’s Derrick Rose, who struggled to renew his confidence and get back to his peak performance, only to tear up his other knee upon returning to the court. The surgery is continually improving, but the results are still far from perfect, let alone uniform.
It would be a shock if Rob Gronkowski is fully recovered by Week 1. Make no mistake, the Patriots will not put Gronk on the field unless his knee is healthy enough to play. There is a lot to worry about with a player returning from knee surgery, so whether or not Gronkowski is suiting up for Week 1 is the least of your concerns. When he’s healthy enough to play, he will be facing two obstacles. Will his knee be strong enough for him to regain his explosiveness, and will he be confident enough in his knee to play at full speed with his usual reckless abandon? Essentially, the questions are 1) Do you trust his doctors? 2) Do you trust his confidence?
You should definitely trust his doctors. Dr. James Andrews has performed this operation more times than you’ve thought about Kate Upton. The Patriots medical staff is very good at their jobs and will do everything possible to make sure that Gronkowski’s knee is as good as new before he sees the field. As for the second question, this is just speculation, but I’m guessing Gronk has never had an issue with confidence.
Gronk is currently being drafted in the late 3rd to early 4th round. When healthy and at the top of his game, he’s a 1st-2nd round talent, so that is great value. But in order for him to make good on that draft value, you’ll need 13 or so weeks of high-end performance. To me, the main concern with Gronk is not his knee at all. Even if we forget about the knee surgery for a second, Gronkowski doesn’t exactly have a clean bill of health. He’s likely be missing the first few weeks of the season. Once he’s healthy, there’s no guarantee that he’ll stay healthy. Even at his lowered price, you can’t afford to have him dealing with an ailing back or a broken thumb or a sprained ankle during your playoff push.
I don’t like the idea of spending a 3rd round pick on Gronk this year. Personally, I’d rather have Julius Thomas for that value, or wait on Vernon Davis, Jordan Cameron, or Jordan Reed than take that level of risk on Gronkowski, but I can understand the pick. If you’re comfortable with the risk, go ahead. After all, the dude can put you over the top in the fantasy football playoffs. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
*Photo Credit – Alex Kroll40 via Flickr