Early in the most recent episode of "Monday Night Football," the Kansas City Chiefs played exceedingly well. Well, the Chiefs' defense played well. The offense? It was helmed by Tyler Palko. But Kansas City's defensive schemes gave New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady pause while its aggression gave him hardly a second to think. Eventually, as he so often does, Brady found the key to unlocking the opposition's defense. In this case, the key stands 6 feet and 6 inches tall while weighing about 265 pounds.
Rob Gronkowski was the key. Well, if you asked the Chiefs, they might say Gronk was more like a steel Stinger battering ram. But, either way, he unlocked the defense.
Brady twice connected with the second-year tight end out of Arizona for touchdowns as the Patriots pulled away -- far, far away -- from the visiting Chiefs. Gronkowksi's second score swelled the New England lead to 17-3 early in the third quarter. It also seemed to have come close to severing Gronkowski's neck.
Hoping to evade the last defender between himself and the endzone, Gronkowksi went airborne. His flight path was altered by Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson and he was flipped upside down, landing awkwardly on his head, neck and shoulder -- seemingly all at once. Gronkowski appeared to have trouble getting to his feet following the landing and his initial steps were unsure, but soon enough he was engaging in his signature spike celebration.
After the Patriots sealed a 34-3 rout, Gronkowski joined the ESPN crew to discuss his game. Not surprisingly, they wanted to hear about that incredible scoring play. Why did he leave his feet? Does he even remember that crash landing?
"I don't know, man. I landed. I looked I was, like, 'Did I score?' I didn't even know if I was in or not," Gronkowski admitted when ESPN's Stuart Scott asked him about the awkward landing on his touchdown dive. As Gronkowski spoke, Steve Young attempted to ask point blank if the tight end had lost consciousness.
After Gronk discussed his rationale for attempting to jump over the tacklers rather than run through them, Young came back to the possibility that the Patriots' playmaker had been dazed and confused after the play.
"Rob, it looked like you were a little bit, kind of, groggy," Young said as ESPN replayed the touchdown. "I mean, do you remember that moment right there? Or did you kind of go out for a second?"
The 22-year-old's first reaction to Young's question was a nervous laugh.
"Uh, I remember the moment and everything. And, if I didn't, I still wouldn't even say I didn't [because] I want to play this week."
While this cagey admission by Gronkowski elicited laughs from Young, Scott and Trent Dilfer on Monday night, it surely couldn't have pleased those hoping to enforce concussion safety regulations in the NFL. Although Gronkowski may be totally, and amazingly, fine after that fall, his statement certainly reveals the way many players view concussion safety rules -- as something to be circumvented.
Before the season, the NFL implemented a new standardized sideline concussion assessment protocol that includes a symptom checklist and an evaluation that can be compared to baseline results culled during the preseason. According to the Boston Herald, the Patriots' medical personnel did administer such a sideline test, but it seems apparent that Gronkowski -- and no doubt his peers throughout the NFL -- have figured out how to work around the rules to keep themselves eligible.
Realizing that the current protocols were not catching every concussion, NFL officials told to watch out for in-game concussion symptoms being displayed by players. This directive from the league office earlier this month after after San Diego guard Kris Dielman suffered a head injury during a game against the Jets and then had a seizure on the team's flight home. Should the trouble that Gronkowski had getting to his feet triggered a response by an official?
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