Make your bets. Literally. That’s what online wagering and sportsbooks are for. Is New England Patriots tight end Rob ‘Gronk’ Gronkowski o his last legs? Is he on his way out of the only professional team he has called home? Is his career over? Is his style of play too risky for his own good? Depends on who you ask. If you were to ask retired Baltimore Ravens/New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott – who is no stranger to controversy –, you can just go right ahead and stick a fork in Gronkowski because he’s done.
Gronk had to leave Sunday’s game against the Jets after sustaining a back injury while diving for a pass – the latest in a long string of injuries, and the last too, if Scott is to be believed. “Gronk’s on his way out,” Scott told CBS Sports Radio. “Because of injuries, and they don’t stick with you when they see you slipping. When you have a big man that starts having back problems – he’s only in his seventh year, and he has two years remaining.” Scott then went even farther and added that “they already brought in his replacement (Martellus Bennett, who’s actually older than Gronk) and they can get him for cheaper.” About the only way Scott could sound more like a crackpot is if he said the Pats planned to replace Gronkowski with a clone/android.
On the other hand, USA TODAY Sports’ Luke Kerr-Dineen assures New England online wagering fans that Gronk’s career with the Pats is far from over, provided he continues to play – and play well – through injuries. “Banged-up or not, Gronkowski is still the Patriots' most potent offensive weapon (outside of Tom Brady, of course),” Kerr-Dineen writes, “and he's its (sic) only reliable downfield threat.” Sportsball is all about “what have you done for me lately” and they’re ready to kick an injured player to the curb like a child discards a broken toy, but Gronk is still delivering the goods, and he’s still better than most healthy tight ends.
But for how long? His playing style is not reckless like that of Robert Griffin III – that is he’s not going to injure himself – but seeming almost unstoppable, opposing defenders attempt to bring him down by hook or by crook. To paraphrase Jeffrey Combs in The Frighteners, Gronk’s body is a road map of pain. Starting in college and through his pro career, the tight end has injured almost each of his moving parts, including back, ankle, hamstrings, hip, knees, forearm, chest, and head, which he has torn, bruised, broken, or concussed. Gronk has missed 24 games in seven seasons in the NFL.
Gronks’s absences can be categorized in two different groups; when head coach Bill Belichick knows in advance Gronkowski won’t be available and can make the proper adjustments in advance (something which online wagering fans would do well to imitate), and when the loss is sudden – for instance, against the Jets. “With Gronk injured, you have all these plays you like and then all of a sudden he goes out and a lot of things change,” Brady told sports radio WEEI’s Kirk and Callahan program.