Monday, November 19, 2012


Rob Gronkowski broke a forearm in the course of his normal duties yesterday, blighting what had otherwise been a delightful evening for the New England Patriots yesterday.

Getting injured while blocking for an extra point (to reiterate, an unexceptional part of Gronkowski's job) is a freak accident. Except there aren't really many freak accidents in football. Most, including this one, stem from how the player in hurt plays his sport in the first place.

Gronkowski's playing style has always generated two emotional responses for me. One of course, is that it's a gas to watch him. The other, a corollary, is the unhappy thought that I'd better get my jollies watching maximum Gronk as long as I can, because it won't be around as long as I would like.

One doesn't need Bill Belichick to explain Gronkowski's technique. Due to his exceptional size, strength, speed and general fondness for mayhem, he's an offensive player who chooses to hit first even though he does chores (pass catching, blocking on extra points) where almost all players get hit first instead. This makes Gronkowski a thrilling sight on the field. This also makes him one of the NFL's largest targets.

Defenders have only one means of getting even when a bigger, faster offensive player starts knocking them on their asses. More of them enter the fray, at higher speeds. Gang tackling closely resembles gang warfare. And although it shouldn't come as a surprise, most people, players included, don't immediately grasp that dishing it out wears a body out just about as quickly as taking it.

Players in the Gronkowski mode tend to get injured doing things like extra point blocking. It's in their natures to make the most of whatever collisions are offered them.

You know who Gronk most reminds me of? Earl Campbell, that's who. Nobody was more of a thrill to watch than the Tyler Rose, and for the same reason Gronkowski's such a treat, too.

Earl's NFL story didn't have a particularly happy ending. Nor many pages. He was a victim of what made him great.

It'd suck if that happens to Gronkowski. It may have started happening yesterday.


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