Rob Gronkowski: The Latest Victim of the NFL's Inconsistent Player Safety Policy
This was what the New England Patriots have been waiting for.
A healthy and physically imposing Rob Gronkowski.
It was just too good to last.
An unique but spectacular tight end, Gronkowski was back in the lineup after recovering from a plethora of offseason injuries. He was doing what was expected of him: imposing his will on defenses, catching everything that was thrown in his direction, and creating headaches for opposing defensive coordinators. Tom Brady was reaping the benefits, and the Patriots offense was again more lethal with Gronk back.
Say what you will about Gronk's offseason shenanigans, but on the field, he is strictly business.
However, his season took a turn for the worse. In his seventh game, Gronkowski suffered what seems to be season-ending ACL and MCL injuries due to the NFL's wildly inconsistent player safety policy regarding tackling.
TJ Ward is the Cleveland Browns safety who hit Gronkowski low and caused the damage. He's by no means a dirty player. In fact, he even stated his intent was not to injure Gronk, but to play the way he and the rest of the NFL's defenders are "forced to play."
Yes, the league is 'unofficially' wanting defensive players to tackle low. There are 'way too many repercussions if a defensive player aims too high. Not only can a defender leave himself open to penalties with high hits, he can also be subjected to a fine once the NFL reviews the hit. Worse, they can be subjected to suspensions, which in turn -- depending on the severity of the hit -- means less cash in their pockets.
The NFL doesn't have a concise guideline on how a defensive player should tackle. I feel as though they aren't taking the speed of the game and thus the momentum of the defensive player into sufficient account. The new breed of NFL athlete is much faster and stronger than the NFL has ever seen, and the league guidelines aren't properly defined. Therefore, frustrations about acceptable tackling techniques are more evident.
Given the game's speed, an offensive player can adjust his body in a split second, which suddenly changes the defensive player's original target. In mid-air, it's very difficult to contort one's body the way it needs to be, unless of course, you're David Blaine. Ultimately, this is causing defensive players to aim low instead of high, and when they do that, the probability of a leg injury substantially increases. Hence, the result is what transpired with TJ Ward and Rob Gronkowski.
The NFL needs to address this issue in the offseason, because defensive players are now voicing their frustrations on a weekly basis.
The NFL needs to do a better job of protecting all its stars. It needs to address this issue. Vernon Davis, for one, is on board with this.
Maybe this is the reason why the Washington Redskins possess such a poor tackling defense. Then again, maybe they just can't tackle.