MINNEAPOLIS – The New England Patriots were handed an injury boost Thursday after star tight end Rob Gronkowski cleared the concussion protocol, and is expected to play against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII.
Gronkowski was forced off after a helmet-to-helmet hit with Barry Church during the first half of the AFC Championship game at home to Jacksonville, raising concerns that he would not recover in time for Sunday’s showdown.
Despite those worries, Gronkowski was never in any real doubt over his participation in the NFL’s showcase game.
“(I) officially got the word today that I was cleared. So it was super nice to hear from the doctors going through the whole process and I’m ready to roll,” Gronk said.
The tight end, who missed last year’s Super Bowl victory against Atlanta through injury, led the Pats in receiving yards during the 2017 regular season, making 69 catches for an average of 15.7 yards per reception for 8 touchdowns.
Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise is also cleared to train after leaving the protocol, and despite Malcolm Butler suffering from illness, the star cornerback is expected to play come Sunday.
New England will need their defense to be as close to full strength as possible if they are to stop one of the league’s best rushing offenses, featuring the dual threat of Jay Ajayi and former Patriot LaGarrette Blount.
Philadelphia will not only rely on their ground game on Sunday; Nick Foles, who has stepped in for starting QB Carson Wentz since Week 14 and led the Eagles through the playoffs against the odds, can count on several threats in his receiving corps in the shape of Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor and TE Zach Ertz.
The Eagles defense ended the regular season 4th overall, and 1st against the rush, and will need to continue their impressive form if they are to stop New England, who finished the regular season with the league’s best offense, thanks in large part to record-breaking and age-defying quarterback Tom Brady and his favorite target, Rob Gronkowski.
Brady was thrilled that his teammate had been cleared to play.
“That makes me happy,” the smiling QB said when reporters told him of Gronkowski’s injury update. “He’s a big weapon for us (...) He’s just an incredible player and hopefully he can go out there and play his best game of the year.”
Super Bowl LII will be held at the US Bank Stadium in Minnesota, Minneapolis on Sunday.