New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is expected to miss the remainder of the 2013 season and perhaps a large portion of the 2014 season with a knee injury. The hit that reportedly tore Gronkowski’s ACL and MCL was this brutal diving tackle by Cleveland Browns safety TJ Ward.
A number of people have accused Ward of having intent to injure with how aggressively he dove at Gronk’s knee. However, Ward said on Sunday that the NFL has basically given defenders no choice.
“If I would’ve hit him up high, there’s a chance I was going to get a fine,” Ward said, according to the Boston Globe. “It’s kind of being caught between a rock and a hard place. It’s a decision you have to make, but you have to follow the rules at the same time. When they set the rule, everyone knew what was going to happen. This can happen if you have those types of situations. It’s pretty much inevitable, and they forced our hand with this one.”
That is precisely the reason Tony Gonzalez and other players have said they would rather be hit in the head than have opponents diving at their knees. Ward said he went over to Gronkowski to check if we was OK after the play, adding that he prayed for him because “it looked bad.” That said, Ward believes he was simply playing the game the way the league wants it to be played.
“But I’ve got to play football, man,” Ward said. “I’ve got to play football.”
Personally, I didn’t have a problem with Ward’s hit. The hit clearly bothered Bill Belichick, but it was well within the rules. If stuff like this keeps happening, the NFL will probably make hits below the knee illegal as well, leaving a target area of between the neck and thighs. Who knows what will become of the game if and when that happens.