By Sterling Pingree
It was announced yesterday afternoon that Rob Gronkowski was going under the knife again to have back surgery and will miss the next 8 weeks. This news has sparked a round of criticism that the big man is “fragile”. Gronk has missed time during each season since 2011, though it should be noted that his missed game in 2014 was week 17 against Buffalo when the Patriots rested their starters. That being said, I still wouldn’t call him “fragile”.
The big fella has had more than his fair share of injuries, but I don’t think you can question the guy’s toughness or intestinal fortitude. After the Earl Thomas hit, when his lung was punctured, perforated, crinkle cut and sliced into curly fries, he stayed in the game and was the target of the Patriots last play. Last year in the AFC Championship game in Denver, he was struggling with cramping every time he stopped moving for a second, but he was out there every snap and all he did was catch 8 balls for 144 yards and a touchdown. What doesn’t make the stat sheet was the two game saving catches he made on the final drive to keep the season alive as long as possible.
The injuries that have kept Gronk off the field have been major; there was the back injury that kept him off the field his last year of college football. The broken forearm in 2012, which kept him out until the playoffs when on one of the first plays he was tackled to the ground and broke the same arm again. I’ll never forget the sound, or the lack there of in Gillette Stadium when T.J. Ward (that slime ball) took a shot at Gronk’s knee and tore his ACL in 2013.
However, for almost each occurrence of Gronk getting hurt, there is a tale of him getting right back up. Remember the 2011 AFC Championship game versus Baltimore, when that godless savage Bernard Pollard took a shot at Gronk’s leg? Some forget, but Gronkowski had surgery before Super Bowl 46. It limited his production for sure, but the guy played through it.
What I’ve noticed about Gronkowski is that he gets hurt in ways most guys do not. Who breaks their forearm blocking on an extra point? Who breaks their arm by falling down on a routine tackle? How many guys herniate a disc in their back by diving forward for a catch? These injuries are special to a player that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Being 6’6, 265 pounds and running as fast as he does isn’t normal, why would his injuries be?
That description could only be used for one other player in history and his name was Vincent Edward (Bo) Jackson. Bo Jackson might be the most athletic person who has ever walked this planet. His feats of strength, speed and general athleticism are still talked about as if he was the star of fable, not of football. What people forget is that Bo battled injuries in baseball and football during his career. They were things that couldn’t happen to other mere mortals because they weren’t of the skills that could produce such an occurrence.
The injury that ended Bo’s career was unique to Bo. He had a tackler around his ankle and he was so strong that as he attempted to pull his leg free from the defenders hold, he pulled so hard that he pulled his hip out of socket. Nobody else is strong enough to do that, it’s been called an injury that was as rare as Bo Jackson is. That’s what we’ve learned about Gronk; he has been injury riddled but when you’re a player the likes of which we have never seen before, things tend to play out in ways that we can never foresee.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree) is a co-host on The Drive weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.