Robert “Rob” James Gronkowski does not need an introduction. The man, the myth, the legend. The now 31-year-old recently unretired, who stands 6’6”and weighs 268 pounds. He grew up in Amherst, New York. “Gronk” comes from a very athletic family where his father played football for Syracuse, great grandfather cycled in the Summer Olympics and several of his brothers also played professionally as well.
Gronkowski played hockey and then eventually transitioned to basketball, baseball, and football. He played tight end and defensive end as well as kickoff specialist (imagine Gronk kicking off to you???). Gronkowski was not only physically gifted but also intelligent, as he was a member of the National Honors Society and stated that math was his best subject. He graduated with a 3.75 GPA (out of 4.0) with a 1560 SAT score (out of 1600).
For his senior year of high school, his family moved to Pittsburgh. Initially ruled ineligible after the transfer, but was eventually cleared and posted some impressive numbers over a short period of time which allowed him to get noticed. Gronkowski decided to attend the University of Arizona as a pre-business major.
He started making a name for himself during his freshman season (2007), posting a 18.8 yards per reception average. His injuries started to accumulate in a 2008 season, as he missed three games. By the end of the season he set multiple school records for the tight end position. Unfortunately Gronkowski missed his junior season of college in 2009, due to back surgery, which as a result caused his draft stock to plummet.
When the 2010 NFL Draft arrived, Gronkowski was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round after a trade with the Oakland Raiders. Pre-draft evaluations revealed that the Raiders actually had Gronkowski as the best all-around player in the draft.
Gronkowski had a very respectable rookie season catching 42 passes for 546 yards and 10(!) touchdowns. His sophomore season was even more impressive as he led all tight ends with 10 touchdowns through week 11, already accumulating 20 touchdowns in his career which set the record. He went on to break the single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end with 17.
Throughout the majority of his career, Gronkowski was a monster on the field, and almost impossible sometimes to bring down. Unfortunately, he suffered his fair share of injuries pushing him to retire at just 29 years old. In a statement he revealed he was mentally and physically exhausted. He stated he couldn’t play anymore because of the amount of pain he was constantly in, and the toll that the injuries took on his mental health.
Gronkowski wants to make a go at it for at least one more season. After three declining years from 2016-2018, Gronk wisely called it a career. Now, after a stint wrestling in the WWE as well as repeat performances on ``The Masked Singer,” he felt good enough to fly his services to Tampa Bay, joining his career quarterback in Tom Brady.
As a Buccaneer, Gronkowski won't have to carry as much as a load he did in New England. He will have help from Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, OJ Howard, and Cameron Brate. His role will be limited and the yards and receptions just won't be there as they will be going to the top-flight wide receivers.
Even though Gronk faces an offensive crowded situation, there is no denying the magic between Brady and him. The duo has gathered 79 career touchdowns, which is fifth among a quarterback and receiver combination. The passing rating of 129.6 ranks first when looking at a quarterback to receiver connection (awesome stat).
The offensive line is a middle-tier group and they run a zone hybrid.. Tampa Bay drafted Tristan Wirfs in the first round to play right tackle who will step-in for the retired Demar Dotson. Ryan Jensen is the leader and he was named All-Pro last year. Both Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa are solid run blockers.
The 2018 season did show an injured Gronk, but he still performed as a TE11 and had five games where he produced double-digit fantasy points. His playing frame and athleticism still will yield results in Tampa Bay. With new offensive playmakers, Brady may rely on comfortability for many of his progression reads, getting that connection back with Gronk.
Also, Evans and Godwin will demand attention leaving Gronkowski with many man-to-man situations. Bruce Arians hasn’t always been a steady producer for tight ends, but Brady will find the open man, and this could be Gronk for a lot of it.
Feel free to take Gronk as low TE2, and be mildly surprised!
Let’s review some of these injuries. The list could be the longest I’ve read for a specific player. In 2009, while still in college, he underwent surgery for a severely herniated disc in his lower back (rare at that age). In 2012 he suffered a severe high-ankle sprain in the playoffs but managed to power through it before having surgery.
Also, in 2012, he fractured his forearm causing him to require surgery, causing him to miss five games. Eventually Gronk refractured the same left forearm a couple months later, and had to have three additional surgeries, secondary to infection. Additionally, he had a second back surgery that caused him to miss the first half of the 2013 season. So far he’s had 2 back surgeries and 4 surgeries on his forearm. To learn more about back surgeries, click here.
Gronkowski then missed the final three regular season games of the 2013 season after tearing both his ACL and MCL of his right knee as well as suffering a concussion. Surprisingly, Gronkowski did not suffer any injuries throughout the 2014 season, and was named Comeback Player of the Year after his 2013 ACL reconstructive surgery.
In 2016, Gronkowski suffered another herniated disc which required a third back surgery ending his season prematurely. Gronkowski managed to stay relatively healthy throughout the 2017 season, and only suffered minor groin and leg injuries. Gronkowski did suffer a concussion in the playoffs.
In October of the 2018 season Gronkowski missed a total of three games as a result of a low back injury. It is unclear if he ever had surgery at this time.
Gronkowski’s forearm fracture was fluky and should be 100% recovered by now. His knee injury was what it was, and he should not have any issues with that any longer. The main concern with him is his low back as he has multiple issues likely all involving his lower/lumbar spine.
Herniated discs in the low back can be debilitating, ranging from mild and uncomfortable to being utterly miserable and laying on the floor, because it is the only way to get comfortable. I see them everyday, it is not pretty. You can see the patient’s pain on their face.
The lower part of the lumbar spine is where the strong majority of people have their issues, most commonly L4-L5 and L5-S1. These two areas, in between these three discs (L4-L5-S1), serve as a major transition point from upper to lower body. Any twisting, pushing, pulling, picking things up, rotating all require stability in order to transfer energy from the lower half to upper, half and vice versa. If there are any issues with any of these discs, bones or nerves in this area the person often struggles with discomfort.
The nerve essentially runs the show in the body. It controls pain, strength, sensation as well as activating muscles and telling them when to ‘fire.’ The disc serves as a cushion between each bone/vertebrae, providing a space for the nerves to exit the spinal cord. Each level/disc has a single nerve coming out, which splits into two, like a fork in the road. The nerves going to the right control the right side of the body (at that level, look up ‘lumbar dermatomes’), and the nerves going to the left control the left side. Understanding this is important, because this is the basis of low back, ‘sciatica,’ and why Gronkowski will never be 100% ever again. To learn more about herniated disks, click here.
When a nerve is being squeezed or pinched as it exits the spinal cord, the person is likely going to have pain, either throbbing or sharp and stabbing (sometimes both), numbness and tingling, or weakness depending on the severity of the irritation to the nerve. Technically these can fluctuate depending on body position, time of the day and recent activities. It’s as awful as it sounds.
Be sure to watch the Injury Video below for more explanation.
When someone has multiple surgeries because of a herniated disc in the lower back, there is only so much the spine and low back can tolerate, especially with someone of Gronkowski size and stature.
Then consider what he is asking his body to do, take huge hits, often in awkward positions, twisting while he’s trying to catch the ball. His low back is very vulnerable, and as a result he is going to continue to struggle to stay healthy. New back injuries are unfortunately almost inevitable.
Sports Injury Predictor calculates that for TEs, Gronkowski has the highest chance of injury in 2020 at 78.7%. He is projected to miss at least 3.5 games in 2020, and has a 9.2% chance of injury and each game that he plays. Those numbers are hard to fathom, but unfortunately realistic.
Gronkowski has missed 24 regular season games of the past five seasons, and 29 games over the course of his career (not including the playoffs). It is unclear how effective he will be as the season progresses and he starts to accumulate more hits. Thankfully, he does not need to be the center of attention for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
My risk score for Gronkowski is very high, 8 out of 10. Gronkowski is a high-risk, high-reward safety blanket for Tom Brady who will likely see a significant reduction in targets due to the sheer volume of weapons on this potentially deadly team. Unless you are in a TD-point-heavy league, I personally wouldn’t draft him as a top 5 TE.
Gronk is back! Unfortunately, this does not mean he is a TE1, more leaning toward a TE15.
Injury Risk: High. 8/10.
|Projected Missed||Probability of injury per game ?||Probablity of injury in the season ?|
|Oct 29, 2018||Back Lower Lumbar Sprain||Gronk suffered a setback with his back injury and missed 2 games. He returned after the Week 11 bye.|
|Oct 14, 2018||Back Lower Lumbar Sprain||Gronkowski missed 1 game with an unspecified back injury. It's not clear exactly when he suffered the initial injury.|
|Jan 21, 2018||Head Cranial Concussion Grade 1||Gronkowski suffered a concussion on a 2nd-quarter helmet-to-helmet hit by Jaguars S Barry Church. He missed the rest of the game and entered the league protocol.|
|Oct 1, 2017||Leg Thigh Bruise||Gronkowski suffered a right thigh contusion via a leg whip against the Panthers and missed the following game at Tampa Bay.|
|Nov 27, 2016||Back Vertebral Disc Hernia||Gronk suffered a herniated disc and impinged nerve that required December surgery. He left after a hit in the Jets game, but the injury reportedly originated Nov. 13 vs. Seattle. Gronk missed the final 5 games plus 3 in the playoffs.|
|Nov 13, 2016||Chest Lung Bruise||Gronk left late after a big hit by Seattle S Earl Thomas. Injury reported as bruised lung, bruised sternum and perforated lung. Original report of punctured lung proved incorrect. Later back injury and surgery also attributed to this hit.|
|Aug 15, 2016||Thigh Hamstring Sprain/Pull Unspecified Grade 1||Gronk pulled up lame in preseason practice. He sat out the entire preseason and 1st 2 regular-season games, then remained limited at least into Week 5.|
|Nov 29, 2015||Knee Strain Grade 1||Team and Gronkowski family called the injury a "bone bruise/sprain of his right knee" in a joint statement. Gronk missed 1 game. Later had a January treatment than included a pain injection.|
|Dec 8, 2013||Head Cranial Concussion Grade 1||Gronkowski suffered a concussion on the same play that tore his right ACL and MCL. Thus, we have no way to know whether this injury would have cost him further game time.|
|Dec 8, 2013||Knee MCL Tear Grade 3||Gronkowski tore his right MCL against the Browns on the same play that tore the right ACL. He hit IR and had reconstructive surgery January 9, 2014. Gronk missed the final 3 games plus 2 in the playoffs.|
|Dec 8, 2013||Knee ACL Tear Grade 3||Gronkowski suffered tears to his right ACL and MCL against the Browns. He landed on IR and had reconstructive surgery in January 9, 2014. Gronk missed the final 3 games plus 2 in the playoffs.|
|May 17, 2013||Back Vertebral Fracture||May MRI on disc issue revealed that he needed back surgery (reportedly not related to 2009 back injury that required surgery). Issue reportedly dated to 2012 season. Gronkowski didn't play until Week 7 of 2013.|
|Jan 13, 2013||Arm Forearm Fracture||Re-fractured left forearm (not identical injury). Gronk required 3 more surgeries, including treatment for nagging infection. He remained out until Week 7 of 2013 while also recovering from back surgery.|
|Nov 18, 2012||Arm Forearm Fracture||Gronk sustained a fractured forearm against the Colts and was sidelined the following 5 games. Had surgery November 19, 2012.|
|Sep 28, 2012||Inguinal Hip Pull||Gronk suffered a pulled hip during a practice which limited his reps that week but returned in time for the game.|
|Jan 22, 2012||Pedal Ankle (high) Sprain Grade 3||Gronkowski suffered a high-ankle sprain in the AFC Championship game. He played through the injury in the Super Bowl 2 weeks later but required arthroscopic surgery later in February. He reportedly suffered multiple torn ligaments.|
|Aug 15, 2009||Back Vertebral Disc Hernia||Missed entire junior year at Arizona (2009) following surgery for bulging disk in back. According to his book "It's Good to be Gronk," MRI showed badly ruptured disk that was damaging nerves in spinal cord.|
|Aug 30, 2008||Cervical Throat Mononucleosis||In college, Gronkowski missed 3 games with mononucleosis and strep throat.|