New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski hurting in victory because of thigh injury

New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski hurting in victory because of thigh injury

ATLANTA -- Rob Gronkowski had the last locker before the showers in the Patriots dressing room. The game had ended an hour before but Gronk still had his jersey and shoulder pads on. 

His pants? Not on. He was in his underwear and he kept pressing on his thigh. 

“Look at this,” he said. 

I looked at the side of his thigh where he was poking. It looked stupidly big. Swollen from just above the knee for about 20 inches. 

“Touch it,” he encouraged. 

I touched. Yep, swollen.

The misshapen thigh was caused by second-quarter hit on which Gronk was sandwiched and upended. He limped to the sideline and the limp got worse when he got into the bench area.  He didn’t miss any plays which -- given the way the thing looked now -- was kind of amazing. 

 “Is that the worst you’ve ever had?” I asked him, figuring it probably was because the expression on his face was somewhere between mortified and amused. 

“No, it’s about the same as other ones,” he said. “But I can barely walk!” 

“What will it look like tomorrow?” I asked. 

“It will be red . . . black and blue,” he said. “But at least I don’t have to worry about it now.”

Doesn’t have to worry about it now because there are no more games this year. With this vicious thigh shot, as opposed to the two he took against Miami and the one he took against the Vikings, he won’t be rehabbing in hopes of being able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday and then play next Sunday. 

This time, he can just let it heal without the pressure and the urgency all the while knowing more and different pain is in store for him. 

That blown-up thigh is an example of what Gronk was talking about Wednesday when he said to me, “Try and imagine getting hit all the time and trying to be where you want to be every day in life. It's tough, it's difficult. To take hits to the thigh, take hits to your head. Abusing your body isn't what your brain wants. When your body is abused, it can bring down your mood. You've got to be able to deal with that, too, throughout the season.

“No one realizes that, and everyone expects us players to be wide awake every single day, and it's like 'Yo, I just took 50 collisions, and then like the next day everyone wants you to be up'. They want practice full speed, next week they want the game to be full speed, but they don't understand sometimes what players are going through with their bodies, with their minds.”

When I got to Gronk he was already talked out. 

I asked him if he’d announced what he planned to do.

“I’m going to the party,” he said.

“I mean after that, if you’re retiring,” I clarified. 

“Oh no, that’s not for tonight,” he said. “This is about the team. I’ll wait a couple of weeks then make my decision.” 

Another reporter asked Gronk what he planned to do tomorrow when he realized there was no football to prepare for. 

“Well, I gotta get on the team plane home . . . ” he said. 

After that?

“I’m super excited just to chill,” he said. “We need it. We need it. We definitely need it.” 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

Updated Patriots cornerback depth chart after Michael Jackson trade with Lions

The New England Patriots added even more depth to an elite group of cornerbacks Sunday by acquiring Michael Jackson in a trade with the Detroit Lions.

Jackson, who's listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, was a fifth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2019. The Detroit Lions signed him off the Cowboys practice squad last season and he played in one game for the NFC North team.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Here's an updated look at the Patriots' cornerback depth chart with Jackson in the fold:

--Stephon Gilmore
--Jason McCourty
--J.C. Jackson
--Jonathan Jones
--Joejuan Williams
--Michael Jackson
--Myles Bryant
--D’Angelo Ross

It should be noted that Justin Bethel is listed at cornerback, but most of his snaps come on special teams. 

A strong case could be made that cornerback is the deepest position on the Patriots roster. The group is led by Stephon Gilmore, who became the first Patriot ever to win the AP's NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2019. Gilmore is the league's best cornerback and has earned first team All-Pro selections in back-to-back seasons. 

He's not the only talented cornerback in the Patriots secondary, though. 

J.C. Jackson excelled in coverage last season, too, especially on passes beyond 20 yards. In fact, Jackson had the lowest passer rating allowed when targeted of all cornerbacks in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus.

One of the most intriguing players in the Patriots secondary is second-year cornerback Joejuan Williams. He was a second-round pick out of Vanderbilt in 2019 but saw limited playing time as a rookie.

The depth of the Patriots defense has been hit hard in recent months due to free agent departures and veterans opting out of the 2020 season amid concerns over COVID-19. One position that has remained largely intact is cornerback, and barring any significant injuries, it could be the team's most productive position this coming season.

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

Patriots acquire CB Michael Jackson in trade with Lions

The New England Patriots have added another cornerback to their depth chart.

On Sunday, they announced they've acquired Michael Jackson from the Detroit Lions for an undisclosed 2022 draft pick.

Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis

Jackson was selected in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft (158th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys out of Miami. He started his rookie season on Dallas' practice squad before being signed by Detroit.

The 23-year-old played in only one game last season for the Lions.

Jackson joins a Patriots cornerback group that currently consists of Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, D'Angelo Ross, Justin Bethel, and Myles Bryant.