FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A jubilant Rob Gronkowski, fresh off slipping into his AFC Championship T-shirt before turning around to greet the media, wasn't in the mood to talk about his injury scare after the New England Patriots defeated the Baltimore Raven 23-20 in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Questions about Bernard Pollard landing on his left ankle late in the third quarter were brushed off like would-be tacklers. So many, in fact, that an exasperated reporter finally tried a different approach and asked Gronkowski what sort of injury would keep him out of a game.
Gronkowski just laughed. A few seconds of uncomfortable silence then passed before he said, "Wait, are you serious?"
Yes, the same guy who professed to be "great" in late November after landing awkwardly on his neck while lunging into the end zone against the Kansas City Chiefs, said his left ankle was "good" after Sunday's win. A follow-up question asked what happened on the play -- the one in which Gronkowksi's ankle seemingly could have snapped in half when it got snagged under Pollard as Gronkowski went to the ground -- and Gronkowski elicited laughter by stating matter-of-factly, "Nothing."
All Gronkowski would admit was that he got the ankle retaped (which seemed like a foregone conclusion after he hobbled off the field with trainers and went directly to the locker room). In total, he missed just three minutes of game time before returning to the field with 12:19 to play in the fourth quarter and aiding in blocking as Tom Brady leaped into the end zone with what turned out to be the winning score.
Even in those three short minutes, fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez missed his partner in crime.
"That’s like my brother, and it was weird not being on the field with him," Hernandez said. "Every time I look in the huddle, it’s me and him. But I know he’s a tough person, you see he came back on the field ready to play. I’m sure he’ll be great for that Super Bowl."
Gronkowski finished with five catches for a team-high 87 yards (with a long of 23, which came on the play in which all of New England was left holding its breath as CBS showed numerous cringe-inducing replays of the ankle getting trapped on his way to the ground).
Gronkowski preferred to keep the postgame focus on celebrating with his teammates, but took a moment to savor the Super Bowl opportunity that lies ahead.
"Emotions are flying high -- it's unbelievable, really. My second year in the league, playing with a great team, you've got to enjoy the moment right now. It’s crazy. It doesn’t even feel right. It’s just wild. Especially playing with the veterans here -- watching them growing up and watching them going to the Super Bowl. Now to be part of it, it’s an unreal moment. You can’t take it for granted, you've got to go in and work hard now. But it’s just wild.”
Gronkowski was spotted on the field after the game with a walking boot on his left foot, but will have two weeks to get the injury right before Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.