Jets ready for Pats’ Gronkowski if he plays or not

The New York Jets are ready for Rob Gronkowski – whether he

plays or not.

The New England Patriots’ tight end was cleared by his doctors

Friday to make his season debut Sunday, according to agent Drew

Rosenhaus. Jets coach Rex Ryan wasn’t taking any chances in his

team’s preparations this week.

”Like we said from Day 1, I assumed he’d play,” Ryan said.

”I’m assuming (Tom) Brady will play. But that’s how much we

assumed this guy was going to play. I don’t know if they were

saving him for us or whatever, but I had a funny feeling he was

going to play.”

Gronkowski missed the first six games after offseason surgery on

his back and broken left forearm, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick

would neither confirm nor deny Gronkowski would play. The team’s

injury report listed him as questionable for the game.

That means, as far as the Jets know, the Patriots will make a

game-time decision on Gronkowski. New York missed him in the teams’

first meeting in Week 2, a 13-10 win for New England, although the

tight end has practiced every week during the season.

”After that first game,” Ryan said, ”I felt for sure he’d

play against us the second game.”

Ryan and his players insisted that New York would not need to

alter its game plan one way or the other.

”They have capable guys, but that just adds another weapon for

Brady,” safety Dawan Landry said.

”But, we’re ready.”

At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, Gronkowski provides problems for

most defenses, who have to decide how to go against him – use a

safety or a speedy linebacker, or sometimes, both.

”He’s a good player,” cornerback Kyle Wilson said. ”I don’t

know about matchup issues. It just comes down to making the play or


In six career games against the Jets, including one in the

playoffs, Gronkowski has 24 catches for 313 yards and four

touchdowns. So, New York knows exactly what kind of effect he can


”He’s a big vertical threat in the red zone and Brady looks for

him,” Landry said. ”This week is going to be no different.”

Gronkowski caught six passes for 78 yards and two scores the

last time he played against the Jets in the teams’ first meeting

last season.

”I think you’d have to ask a lot of teams the same question,

like, `Oh, you couldn’t stop him in the red zone?”’ Ryan said.

”Yeah, that’s true. Us and almost every other team in the


Safety Antonio Allen has defended Gronkowski in the past, and

Ryan could use a mix-and-match type of coverage that includes Allen

and possibly Kyle Wilson as well as perhaps linebacker Demario


”He’s just another target,” Wilson said. ”He’s big in certain

parts of the field and certain situations. What we’ve got to do is

everybody do their job. If your job is to cover him, be where

you’re supposed to be and if the ball comes, just make the


Sounds simple enough, right? But Gronkowski has been tough to

handle during his first three seasons.

He was the first tight end in NFL history to have three straight

years with 10 or more touchdown catches, and could become the

fastest to 40 at his position. Gronkowski has 38 scoring catches in

43 regular-season games. The fastest tight end to 40 was San

Diego’s Antonio Gates, and it took him 71 games.

The Jets can draw off their experience of playing against

Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, who’s an inch shorter than Gronkowski but

just as dangerous a pass-catcher. Gonzalez had 10 receptions for 97

yards two weeks ago against the Jets.

”Those guys are hard to cover,” Ryan said. ”Even when you

think you’ve got them covered, they’re still open just because of

their size and catching radius.”

While the Jets were hush-hush on who played the role of

Gronkowski on the scout team, saying only that a few people might

have, Ryan acknowledged that they made sure to go over the

Patriots’ offense with backup tight end Zach Sudfeld. The rookie

spent training camp with New England and had a terrific preseason,

prompting fans and media to call him ”Baby Gronk,” and the Jets

claimed him off waivers two weeks ago.

”Well, he never really remembered anything,” Ryan said,

smiling. ”No, I’m just kidding. You obviously pick his brain and

all that kind of stuff, for sure. He’s a sharp, sharp young man, so

we do our due diligence and try to get what we can out of


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