Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO - Tom Brady expressed hope on Wednesday the NFL would consider protecting the knees of defenseless receivers.

"I do think they should change some of those rules with defenseless receivers," Brady said Wednesday. "I don't think there's anything different from a chop block. Everyone else has their legs protected in the NFL. Quarterbacks get their legs protected. Defensive linemen get their legs protected. Linebackers get their legs protected. I don't see why a defenseless receiver shouldn't get his legs protected either. Maybe that's something they'll look at in the offseason."

On Sunday night, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski injured his knee against the Broncos. While the closing Denver defender, Darian Stewart, didn't make violent (or perhaps any) contact with Gronkowski's knee, the play looked similar to the 2013 play on which Gronk had his ACL blown by T.J. Ward, who then played for Cleveland.

After that injury, I wrote at length about the need for the NFL to look harder at protecting receivers from leg shots when they have just completed a catch and can't protect themselves. Gronk's injury was only part of a spate of injuries suffered on those type of hits in 2013. The NFL ultimately decided to leave the rule as it is.

After Gronkowski went down Sunday night, the quarterback's distress was obvious.

I asked Brady how he reconciles protecting his receivers' health and keeping them out of harm's way when the essence of the game is, well, harm.

"You hate to see you throw the ball to a position where one of your receivers is in a vulnerable position," Brady acknowledged. "It gets tough. You always try to gauge how close the defender is and his ability to close on the ball. It's a real hard thing for a quarterback."

Is it something that's on his mind?

"Absolutely," he said. "You know when the defender is in certain positions and you never want to throw to a certain zone where a guy's just eyeing you and lining your receiver up and it's a big blow up. A lot of time it's outbreaking routes and a corner that's sitting outside and they come from the outside in and hit your receiver. You never want to do that, we talk about that all the time. Obviously, it's a contact sport, guys are gonna get hit. You hate to see one of your guys take hits."

When Gronkowski returns, it will be interesting to see if there are after-effects from this latest lower-leg scare.

Will the Patriots excise some routes from Gronk's responsibilities? Will Brady be more reticent about going to him? Will Gronkowski be able to cut it loose?

Defenders aren't going to stop going low on the behemoth. It's the only way they can get him down. But the NFL probably does need to look harder at low shots on receivers who are in the process of making catches. Nobody is more vulnerable.