On Thursday New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick announced to the media that Pro-bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski was medically cleared to return to football-related activities. Gronkowski participated in the team’s individual workouts but did not participate in the 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 team drills.
After injuries have caused Gronkowski to miss fourteen games over the past two regular seasons, the tight end’s participation in offseason activities is a positive omen for fans in Foxborough.
During Week 11 of the 2012 season, Gronkowski broke his left forearm against rival Indianapolis. Gronkowski attempted to come back six weeks later but ended up re-injuring the same arm in a Week 17 matchup against Miami, preventing him from participating in the playoffs.
The following season Gronkowski was also stung by the injury bug. He tore his ACL and MCL in a Week 13 matchup against the Cleveland Browns, ending his 2013 campaign prematurely.
Despite Gronkowski’s misfortune with injuries, the 25-year-old is still regarded as one of, if not the most, dominant tight ends in the game today. Through four seasons (49 games played), ‘Gronk’ has reeled in 42 touchdown grabs and racked up 3,255 receiving yards.
‘Gronk’ has already made his impact on the NFL record books at such a young age. In 2011, Gronkowski set the NFL record for most touchdown receptions (17) and receiving yards (1,327) in a season by a tight end. In a 2010 Sunday Night Football match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gronkowski became the youngest player with three touchdown receptions in a game (21 years, 214 days).
From 2010-2012, Gronkowski and former New England tight end Aaron Hernandez formed the most dynamic tight end duo in the league. In 2013, with Gronkowski sidelined and Hernandez jailed, the Patriots tight end corp. suffered mightily. This past season, New England tight ends ranked 23rd or worse in the major receiving categories for the position.
The ‘Gronk’ Factor will be beneficial to New England’s successes this upcoming season, considering he stays healthy. Gronkowski provides a big target for quarterback Tom Brady in the passing game and is a matchup nightmare for defensive secondaries. Gronkowski is also vital to New England’s ground game. The six-foot-six, 265-pound tight end is one of the most physical run blockers in the NFL today and is almost automatic in opening up gaps for running backs.
New England players and fans are eagerly awaiting a healthful season from Gronkowski in 2014. The Patriots hope that the two-time Pro-bowler can return to his 2010-2011 form, in which he scored a total of 28 touchdowns over his first two seasons. Football historians and analysts alike can agree that when healthy, Gronkowski possesses legendary potential and upside for the remainder of his playing career.