On Wednesday, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was limited in practice with a knee injury. On Thursday, he didn’t practice at all.
Then came the official Thursday injury report, which added a back injury to the knee injury for Gronkowski, creating the impression that he’s spontaneously coming apart at the seams.
On Thursday night, here’s what a source with knowledge of how the Patriots do business said when it comes to the high-stakes, single-elimination nature of the postseason: “Don’t buy into it.”
In other words, there’s a chance that the Patriots are deliberately overstating Gronkowski’s health condition in an effort to confuse the Chiefs as they finalize a game plan for Saturday.
If true, it’s sort of brilliant. No one ever gets investigated or punished for putting too much on the injury report; the NFL only acts (and rarely at best) when a team fails to disclose enough. If a team discloses too much or otherwise makes the situation seem worse than it is, nothing happens.
And if, in this particular case, it causes the Chiefs to assume that they’ll see an impaired Gronkowski when in fact he’ll be fine, the Patriots could find a way to take advantage of that defect in game planning to get out to an early lead and, sooner than later, to deliver a knockout blow to the hottest team in football, which has now won 11 in a row.
With receiver Julian Edelman likely to return after missing seven games with a broken bone in his foot, the Chiefs have to figure out how to defend both Edelman and Gronkowski, far and away the two most potent weapons in quarterback Tom Brady’s arsenal. Given the potent Kansas City pass rush, coupled with injuries on the New England offensive line, Brady will need to get rid of the ball quickly.
So, yes, it could be a ruse. And, yes, information about injections to the knee may have been exaggerated and/or flat-out fabricated in order to, at a minimum, keep the Chiefs in the dark for as long as possible regarding whether and to what extent Gronkowski will play.
The next clue comes later on Friday, when the Patriots disclose whether Gronkowski practiced on Friday and apply a label to his availability. At best, he’ll be questionable. If the Patriots really want to mess with the Chiefs, they’ll possibly list him as doubtful.
Either way, there’s a chance the typically tight-lipped Patriots have opted to go the other way in this case, in the hopes of creating even the slightest edge as New England tries to advance yet again to the NFL’s final four.