Rob Gronkowski out of walking boot
INDIANAPOLIS -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski enjoys spiking the football with force after scoring a touchdown. He hopes there is an opportunity to do so in Super Bowl XLVI, but for now, he was happy to spike the large walking boot he had been wearing for his left high ankle sprain.
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"No more boot," Gronkowski said during Tuesday's media day session at Lucas Oil Stadium. "That thing is done with."
Gronkowski called it a positive step toward playing Sunday night against the New York Giants, later hinting that would be the case.
"It's the Super Bowl this week, the biggest game. It's not a regular-season game," he said. "You have to treat it a lot differently."
Gronkowski hasn't practiced since sustaining the high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 22. His injury has been the No. 1 storyline at Super Bowl XLVI, so it was fitting that his media day interview was held at podium No. 1.
As Gronkowski walked to the podium in his blue game jersey, wearing a backwards white cap on his head, photographers snapped pictures at a rapid-fire pace, some pointing their lenses down at his ankle. A casual glance didn't detect much of a limp from him. Quarterback Tom Brady joked that Gronkowski had an opportunity for some mass messaging.
"I told him to write 'Hi Mom' on his sock, because there will be a lot of pictures today," Brady said, before focusing on how Gronkowski -- who started all 16 games and seldom comes off the field -- is an integral part of the team's attack. "No one is as tough as him. He makes our offense go and hopefully we have him out there."
Gronkowski, who was selected to the Pro Bowl after finishing with 90 receptions for 1,327 yards and a tight-end record 17 touchdowns in the regular season, repeated multiple times that he was adopting a short-term focus with the injury. He didn't want to forecast how it would feel by Sunday night.
"I don't know yet, we're going day to day," he said. "We're making new steps every day and feeling better every single day. You just want to keep going in the right direction. I want to be out there with the team, obviously."
The 22-year-old Gronkowski was upbeat throughout Tuesday's hour-long media session, joking at multiple points, and one time speaking in Spanish. Later, when asked about his father Gordy revealing to a local television station in Western New York that the injury was a high ankle sprain, he was quick to respond.
"If you ever need some information, just call him up. I think he'll give it all out," Gronkowski said.
When a reporter asked how he'd describe the pain of a high ankle sprain, Gronkowski volunteered to give one to the media member so they could experience it firsthand. That led to laughter before he turned more serious.
"It's just like any other injury -- just nagging, painful a little bit," he said. "... There is a difference between hurt, sore and banged up. In the NFL you definitely have to play hurt."
Gronkowski wasn't sure whether he would practice this week. When asked if he thought he could be effective against the Giants without having practice, Gronkowski said he trusted the team to do whatever was best.
"That's why I'm with the training staff," Gronkowski said. "I trust in the organization here. I trust in the coaches. I trust in all the trainers to get me ready for whatever I have to do. When Sunday comes along, they'll have me at my best, where I need to be."
Gronkowski has dominated headlines over the last three days at Super Bowl XLVI, in part because of his importance to the Patriots' offense. He started all 16 games. Considering the Patriots don't have a backup for Gronkowski on the roster and that they run more than 80 percent of their snaps with two or more tight ends on the field, it's no wonder his status is being monitored so closely. Receivers Chad Ochocinco, Julian Edelman and Tiquan Underwood are candidates for more playing time if Gronkowski is limited.
"We're moving forward with the thought that we'll be ready for anything," offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien said. "We have a lot of good, instinctive players that will be ready for any role we ask them to do, right up to game time, during the game. They're adjustable guys, flexible guys, so we feel really good about where we're at right now."
So does Gronkowski, especially since shedding the walking boot.
"When you are hurt, you want to improve every day. You are just trying to get stronger every day," he said. "I listen to the training staff and what they have to say, trying to heal up, get stronger and making sure I am more fluid out there and can be on it. Basically [it's] going in the right direction."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.