As the Patriots and Broncos prepare to play in the AFC title game, Denver players have been doing plenty of talking. New England players haven’t, with one big exception.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, responding on Twitter to a message from a fan who said that the Broncos once again will be aiming for Gronk’s knees, said that he has “[h]eard their whole team is good at giving low blows.”
The double entendre has spread like wildfire on Twitter, with more than 47,000 retweets since last night. Coach Bill Belichick surely doesn’t like that very much, and possibly will have something to say to Gronk about it.
Sophomoric (but nevertheless hilarious) joking aside, the concern is real. Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said this week on ESPN’s SportsCenter that the best way to tackle Gronkowski is to hit him low, at the knees.
The NFL’s recent focus on health and safety results in public cringing whenever players openly talk about aiming for an area of the body that routinely results in serious injury. But Harris is still right; the easiest way to take Gronkowski down is to hit him low. And the NFL’s concern for health and safety has more to do with the brain than any other area of the body, given the threat to the long-term viability of the game presented by concussions.
Still, the last time these teams played, the game changed dramatically once a low hit to Gronk put him out of the game. And while the Broncos may not be deliberately trying to injure Gronkowski, they know that hitting him low will not only put him on the ground but also knock him out of the game.