FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s a sight that strikes fear into the hearts of New England Patriots fans everywhere: Rob Gronkowski, ball in hand, rumbling across the middle of the field as a man in different-colored jersey dives helmet-first at his knees.
The big tight end already has had one season cut short by a low hit, and another such blow during a Week 12 loss to the Denver Broncos had Patriots supporters fearing the worst before it was revealed that Gronkowski had avoided serious injury.
But as much as folks in New England might hate seeing defenders go low on the four-time All-Pro, it’s not illegal to tackle a guy below the waist. And unless that changes, that’s exactly the strategy opponents will use to bring Gronkowski’s 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame to the ground.
“That’s just something he’s got to deal with,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said during his Wednesday morning news conference at Gillette Stadium. “They’re going to try to get him down however they can. Some guys have different techniques and styles for doing it. However they’re going to tackle him, that’s how they’re going to tackle him, and Rob’s got to be aware of that.
“Just like the big running backs — when Steven Jackson and LeGarrette (Blount) are running through the hole and you’ve got to tackle them, it’s a daunting task. So, they’re just going to try to get them down any way they can.”
Gronkowski missed just one game after sustaining the aforementioned hit from Broncos safety Darian Stewart in late November. He hauled in two touchdown passes from Brady in last Saturday’s divisional-round win over the Kansas City Chiefs and is expected to be at full strength for Sunday’s rematch with Denver in the AFC Championship Game.