First it was Dwight Freeney.
Then it was Maurkice Pouncey.
Now it’s Rob Gronkowski.
Three superstars, three bum ankles.
The curse of the Super Bowl high ankle sprain bit again, this time against the Patriots All-World tight end who we thought was made of pure steel.
Gronk’s ankle has been the talk of the town in Indianapolis. When he showed up to Media Day without a boot, it sent shockwaves through Twitter and ESPN.
Osi Umenyiora said he doesn’t think Gronk will play on Sunday.
That’s just plain stupid.
Gronk will dress and be on the field, but the true question is, how effective will he be?
Number 87 is quite possibly the most important player on offense outside of Tom Brady.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound goofball/superhero is the definition of a throwback tight end.
Sure, Jimmy Graham of the Saints posted some ridiculous receiving numbers, but have you seen that guy block? How many highlights have you seen of Antonio Gates pancaking Terrell Suggs on a chip block?
That’s what separates Gronk from the rest. The second-year kid takes pride in blocking and just happens to be an excellent receiver.
Because of his size and strength, Gronk draws a double team on almost every play. He can beat you down the seam with his speed, and is a beast in the open field…when healthy.
Gronkowski has been healthy his entire NFL career and without a true diagnosis of his injury, none of us can be sure about how effective he’ll be in the Super Bowl.
Luckily, there is some precedent for players playing through the pain of the high ankle sprain.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger battled through a gruesome ankle injury this year, and I’d argue his injury looked worse and his position requires a little more agility, especially moving in the pocket.
Freeney played in the Super Bowl against the Saints in ’09 and managed to get a sack in the first half.
One factor that doesn’t help the Patriots is the Super Bowl halftime show, which can run for almost 30 minutes.
With such a long layover, the adrenaline and perhaps any pain-killing injections will have time to wear off which could limit his effectiveness in the second half.
If Gronk is playing at less than 75 percent and is used more as a decoy, it’ll be a tough task for New England to generate offense.
Besides Gronk, the only consistently effective receivers are Wes Welker and Aaaron Hernandez. I have faith that Deion Branch will step up in the spotlight, but he can often disappear in games.
The key for the Giants defense is to be physical at the line of scrimmage with Welker and Branch and to assign their best coverage linebacker or safety on Hernandez. If they’re successful in doing that, it’ll be a long day for the Patriots.