When you’re the best tight end in the game, it shouldn’t be a surprise when you have a target on your back when it comes to opponents trying to figure out how to stop you.
Unfortunately for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, it sounds like the Broncos may have that target firmly planted much lower.
Denver cornerback Chris Harris was interviewed on SportsCenter Tuesday norning and admitted something that has been pretty obvious to many given how many low shots the veteran tight end has taken this season, that target is on Gronk’s knees.
“You gotta hit him low, man, hit him in his knees,” Harris said in his interview, which should be a giant red flag heading into this weekend. “That’s the best chance you have of hitting him.”
“You gotta take his legs out or hold on and wait for everybody, wait for the gang to come on and gang tackle him.”
Gronkowski didn’t take the comment kindly and fired back a response on Twitter:
The veteran tight end was carted off the field earlier this year back in Week 12 when he was running a deep seam route on the right side of the field. It was a tight throw by Tom Brady, who went to him despite the fact safety Rahim Moore had a bead on him. On the play Moore hit Gronkowski in the knee and upended him, with the veteran hitting the ground and left writhing after the play before being carted away with just under 3:00 to go in regulation during an eventual overtime loss.
Gronkowski lucked out as the injury ended up being a “deep bruise” and he missed one game the following week and has played ever since, but was listed on the injury report with a knee injury prior to Saturday’s win over Kansas City.
He’s already been down this road, having suffered a season-ending knee injury against Cleveland back in 2013 when then Browns safety T.J. Ward (now with the Broncos) put a shot on his right knee as the tight end was running up the left seam. Ward came down over the top and hit his knee just as the ball arrived, upending the tight end and ending his season with a torn ACL after he was carted off the field.
There have been a few other close calls this season on low hits to New England’s star tight end, and it’s obvious that opposing players are targeting him low, but part of that is also because smaller players can’t bring him down if they hit him high.
It’s a dilemma that the league is going to need to deal with, and comments like those from Harris are concerning because all it takes is one hit to end a player’s career. For a player like Gronkowski, he’s already been fortunate to come back from one serious injury and was likely mere inches away from escaping another this year, and it will be interesting to see if the league addresses it this offseason to try and protect players like him.
But for now, it’s a concern going into this weekend, and unlike how he exited the last time, hopefully Gronkowski will instead leave the field on his own celebrating the team’s 2nd-straight AFC Title.
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