FOXBORO – In all the time I’ve spent speculating about, opining on and armchair diagnosing Rob Gronkowski’s injuries, I’ve never actually said to him, “Hey, no hard feelings but we’re at a disadvantage not knowing exactly how severe your injuries are.”
Wednesday, after cluck-clucking for five days about why a hamstring pull kept Gronk off the field for a month, I saw video of him moving gingerly in practice.
It was proof enough for me that this isn’t like 2013 when Gronk’s unavailability while taking part in practice fully was a daily firestorm.
His hamstring isn’t near 100 percent.
So, I figured Thursday was an opportune time to tell him, “If I’m not exactly right when trying to ballpark your status, I hope you know it’s because we’re left to read tea leaves. I don’t know if you have a pull or a tear or what.”
Gronkowski, who eschewed a group media session this week, said he understands. The team policy asking players to not talk about injuries puts players in a tough spot too, he agreed.
“If I could play, I would play,” he said simply and straightforwardly.
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Why is it all so guarded? Plenty of NFL coaches – including some guys Belichick has a great relationship with, like Andy Reid, openly address injuries.
Belichick’s long-ago stated reasoning for not talking about injuries or timetables is that, if he says a player will be down for three-to-five weeks, the player who comes back in three and gets injured will be said to have been pushed back too soon. Meanwhile, the five-week player that takes six to return gets labeled soft.
There are unstated reasons as well. When the opponent knows who’s available and at what level in great detail (i.e. Some guy talking about difficulty pushing off going to his right, backpedaling or handling bull-rushes), it can tailor its game plan to exploit that.
To say nothing of the fact that – open as the NFL desires teams to be about injuries – the players still deserve a level of privacy about their health.
None of this brings us any closer to knowing whether or not Gronk will play against the Dolphins. But we can shed suspicion that there are factors at play that have nothing to do with his hamstring.