Rob Gronkowski remains in the concussion protocol for the New England Patriots, his status for Super Bowl LII against the Philadelphia Eagles still an open question as the Patriots keep an eye on him during the bye week before the big game Feb. 4.
Now the NFL has hit Jaguars safety Barry Church, whose shot to Gronk’s head put the oft-injured tight end into concussion protocol in the first place, with a $24,309 shot to the bank account.
#Jaguars safety Barry Church was fined $24,309 for the hit that gave Rob Gronkowski a concussion last week.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 27, 2018
Gronkowski was drilled by Church on a pass over the middle late in the first half of the AFC championship game Jan. 20, which the Patriots won 24-20. He left the game and did not return.
After the game, Church told reporters, “I just tried to dislodge the ball. He’s a big dude and I was just trying to dislodge the ball, but I guess they felt it was too high of a hit. I hope he’s healthy. I know he didn’t come back, so I hope he’s alright. It was a tough call, but you have to go with what they call. It’s the toughest play in football. If you go low for the knees you are considered a dirty player and if you go high, they throw the flag at you. It’s a bang-bang play and I was just trying to play football. I tried to lead with my shoulder.”
He added: “Yes, it’s tough. That guy is humongous. If you wait for him to catch it and bring him down, he might run you over. You have to go with it and try and hit him in the right target zone, but going 100 miles an hour like that is nearly impossible.”
The Patriots revealed to the media Friday that had the Super Bowl been scheduled for this upcoming Sunday, Gronkowski would’ve been ruled out of the game.
Gronkowski, of course, isn’t just the recipient of head shots: During a Dec. 3 game against Buffalo, he delivered a brutal blow to the noggin of Bills rookie defensive back Tre’Davious White, who was on the ground out of bounds after an interception.
What the hell are you doing, Gronk? pic.twitter.com/mZTgJA62eU
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 3, 2017
White suffered a concussion on the play, which many fans labeled a dirty hit. The league suspended Gronkowski for one game, which reportedly cost him $281,250.
These plays are part of a disturbing upward trend in concussions in the NFL this year:
NFL CMO Dr. Allen Sills says on conference call the NFL is disappointed the concussion rate was up in 2017. "We take this as a challenge, because we're not going to be satisfied until we drive that number much lower." The positive development: self-reporting is up.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 26, 2018
But such is football. The fine prescribed by the league’s discipline rules for inflicting a head injury says that the fine for a first offense is $24,309, so that’s what Church paid the league.
And indeed, there are probably plenty of people in Philadelphia who would happily start a GoFundMe to raise that $24,309 for Church if Gronkowski is forced to miss the Super Bowl due to the injury.
They might even throw in a cheesesteak and a case of beer if the Eagles win.
Don’t expect any news out of the famously secretive Patriots organization on this. They’ll put Gronkowski on the injury report as league rules mandate, but neither team representatives nor coach Bill Belichick is likely to say anything other than, “We’re just focused on winning the game.”
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