TAMPA ― The day after he sustained four cracked ribs, broke another and punctured his lung during a Week 3 loss to the Rams, Rob Gronkowski felt pain he had never experienced before.
“The next day was the worst,” the Bucs tight end said. “I never got shot before, but that’s kind of like what it felt like.”
Gronkowski had just completed back-to-back practices Friday when he spoke with the media for the first time since he was savagely struck in the back by Rams linebacker Terrell Lewis in a 34-24 loss Sept. 26 in Los Angeles.
He missed four games, including his homecoming game with Tom Brady to New England the following week. He returned Oct. 31 against the Saints but played only six snaps before back spasms ended his day.
“That was a situation where it was kind of like a game-time decision, and unfortunately it didn’t go the way we thought it was going to go,” Gronkowski said. “But we were ready for that. We were ready for both situations, and that’s it.
“That’s what happened. It didn’t go the way we planned, and we just had to take it back a step and make sure we take it one step at a time from there, and that’s what we’ve been doing now.”
Gronkowski has had a long history of back injuries and surgeries during his Hall of Fame-worthy career.
“I’ve definitely had a lot of back issues; it’s not like it’s hidden,” Gronkowski said. “I’ve had a few back surgeries, missed a couple times with it. I’d just say you’ve got to be careful with it, with the things I do, with the type of rehab I’m doing, and being aware of it when I come back.”
The Bucs have lost two in a row heading into their Monday Night Football game against the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium.
Gronkowski was talked out of retirement after one season by Tom Brady, shortly after the quarterback signed with the Bucs. For the first time since 2011, Gronkowski played all 16 games last season. He had seven touchdowns in the regular season and two touchdowns in the Super Bowl 55 win against the Chiefs.
The Bucs have lost two in a row and part of the problem has been the absence of Gronkowski, who had four touchdowns in his first two games this season.
With Gronkowski and receiver Antonio Brown out, the Bucs are in dire need of a boost on offense.
“I think the other guys stepped up,” coach Bruce Arians said. “But you take two great players out, possible Hall of Famers, yeah, you’re going to miss them.”
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Gronkowski can’t wait to get back out on the field in a game situation.
“I want to get out there. I want to help out the guys,” he said. “Make some plays like I was at the beginning of the year. Get some first downs, get some touchdowns. Just help out the offense throughout the game, and that’s my goal.
“We’re taking it one step at a time. I mean, I just got two good practices under my belt and that’s a big step right there. That’s a crucial step, getting some practices under my belt and making sure I feel good after them. It’s going well, and that arrow is pointing up towards playing. Hopefully it goes right and I’m out there playing Monday night.”
The list of injuries and surgeries for Gronkowski during his previous 10 NFL seasons. It includes a fractured vertebrae, two forearm fractures, pulled hip, ankle sprain, bulging disc in his back, torn right MCL and ACL, hamstring pull, herniated disc and concussion to name a few.
Gronkowski said he doesn’t worry about the next injury being the one that ends his career.
“I just add that to the resume,” he said. “When I’m done one day, I can go through them all, I can tell my kids. You know how kids are. One day you’re going to have them and they’re going to be crying about a bump and you can go, ‘Oh, I had this, this and this. Don’t worry about it.’
“But I’ll sit there and say ‘Cheers’ to all of them one day. The resume of breaking things and all that is pretty far up there. I’m going to definitely have to file this one, too, under workers’ comp. I think the NFL after I’m done is scared. Workers’ comp, I’m coming for you guys.”
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