Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Gronk Ankle Angle.

Ah, Super Bowl Media Day. That wonderful time of year when coaches and players are asked maddeningly predictable questions and give maddeningly predictable answers in return. I've been watching a lot of the early coverage, and remain totally unsurprised by the false humility and barrage of platitudes. Hoodie relapsed from his brief display of an actually sense of humor into his usual taciturn self. Brady and Eli were aloof, saying all the right things while saying precisely nothing of consequence. Blah. Blah. Blah.

As usual, precious little actual football talk has transpired. Where will Eli fall in the pantheon of all-time QBs? I'll care about that when he retires. What about the Brady/Hoodie dynasty? Meh. REMATCH! Only, not so much if you look at the rosters past a few marquee names. Endless replay loop of the Tyree catch. Woo. Freaking. Hoo.

The one legitimate question that's actually pertinent to what will go down on the field on February 5th is, of course, exactly what condition Rob Gronkowski's left ankle is in. And it's been so thoroughly exhausted that they've actually exhumed the dead horse to beat it again. Yes, he's a critical player in this game, and his status could factor heavily into the outcome, but enough. You're not getting anything other than cryptic, useless updates out of the Pats anyway. Here's the thing: I'm not sure it's really that much of an issue. He looks like he's walking fine, with nary a grimace or limp in evidence. He's been held out of practice, true, but that's just caution being the better part of valor.

Consider Hoodie's history of injury reports. Everyone with a slight booboo on their roster is always "questionable." I'd bet money (if I had any to spare) that this is just the latest example of the Pats spinning things as much to their advantage as possible. I don't deny that he's hurt, because I watched that play and it wasn't pretty, but barring a complication, he's going to go.

Tom Coughlin is not an idiot, and he'll have a game plan for healthy-Gronk, limited-Gronk, and non-Gronk scenarios. Same goes for Hoodie. Really, though, I'm not sure that ankle is really going to affect Gronk's playmaking ability all that much.

Of the Patriots' tight ends, it's Aaron Hernandez who would have serious cause for concern with such and injury. Hernandez is the shifty, hard-cut guy; he breaks ankles like an Allen Iverson crossover. Gronk? For the most part, he's a vertical, one-move-and-go type of player. His sheer size is his greatest weapon, and he's not going to shrink four inches because of an ankle injury. A 75% Gronkowski would still be a dangerous proposition for the Giants' defense to contend with.

Even if he's not the force of nature we're accustomed to seeing, his impact is going to be felt. New York will want to test his limitations early and often. As such, they'll likely assign someone to get a jam on Gronk on every play from scrimmage, which will be one less body to handle Hernandez and Welker in the slot.

Long story kinda short, I think Gronkowski will play, and I think he'll be effective. Now can we please talk about something else?

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