The Rob Gronkowski Question - NBC 7 San Diego
Super Bowl 50

Super Bowl 50

The Panthers battle the Broncos at Levi's Stadium on Feb. 7

The Rob Gronkowski Question

Gronk's ankle is the last mystery about the game.



    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. He is a contributor to Pro Football Talk and you can follow him on Twitter.

    We're awfully close to the start of the game now. It's so close to Super Bowl 46 that there is probably a pregame show on television somewhere right now so you can get your fill of retired players fake laughing at one another while screaming a lot of meaningless words about the Patriots and Giants.

    With two weeks of buildup that crossed the line to obsessive quite some time ago, any question has been asked and answered dozens of times already. There are only two mysteries left for what's going to go down on Sunday.

    One is what songs Madonna will sing during the halftime show. We can't answer that one, although it is sure to disappoint unless she does a rendition of "Like a Virgin" while wearing a Tim Tebow jersey.

    The other question actually has something to do with the game. How is Rob Gronkowski's ankle going to hold up when put to the test?

    For those who have somehow managed to escape the story, Gronkowski suffered a high left ankle sprain during the AFC Championship Game win over the Ravens and spent the first week off in a walking boot. The Patriots tight end lost the boot once the Pats got to Indy, but Gronk has barely practiced and injuries like his tend to need more than two weeks to heal.

    He's listed as questionable, but there aren't many people who expect Gronk to miss the game. It's the Super Bowl, after all, and that fits the "If you can walk, you can play" criteria for medical clearance. The big issue is whether he'll be the Gronkowski of the regular season -- 90 catches, 1,327 yards, 18 total touchdowns -- or some faint facsimile.

    It's not something you can really answer without a machine that can shrink you down to a size that allows you to visit Gronkowski's ankle from the inside. Given the adrenaline of the moment, a heavy tape job and, most likely, a painkilling injection into the ankle, Gronkowski will probably start the day as close to normal as he can get. The extended halftime has to be a concern for the Patriots as that's a lot of time for pain and swelling to seep back into the picture, but they should be in good shape if Gronk can look good early.

    As long as the Giants are forced to concern themselves with Gronkowski, it's a win for the Patriots offense. A few early catches and a sign he can get downfield will make stopping Gronkowski imperative and it will open up other avenues of attack for the Patriots. While they would obviously love to have the Gronkowski who put up the best season in the history of the tight end position, the Patriots will settle for a guy who makes you treat him as such even if he isn't physically capable of pulling it off. 

    The Gronkowski factor is the one thing that no one can account for right now because the only way to find the truth is to see it on the field. It won't be too much longer before we have our answer and then wondering will give way to watching.