Most of us didn’t leave the house, but it was one heck of a newsworthy week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ new quarterback. Tom Brady tweeted it best Thursday, “Trespassing in parks, breaking and entering… Just making myself at home in Tompa Bay!”
Miraculously, it wasn’t trespassing nor trademarking that garnered the most attention from TB12’s adoring fanbase. Brady’s boldest move was luring tight end Rob Gronkowski, his running mate for nine seasons in New England, out of retirement.
Brady reportedly hinted to teams during free agency that he and Gronk were a package deal. For good reason: the prolific duo hooked up for 78 touchdowns in those stellar seasons, twice as many as any other of Tom’s targets, and together won three Super Bowls. So one can understand why the ultracompetitive Brady would want his boy in Tampa Bay. However, what’s good for the goose—or in this case GOAT—may not be good for the gander.
In September Gronk told CBS correspondent Reena Ninan that he’d had “nine surgeries and probably had, like, 20 concussions in my life — no lie. I remember five blackout ones.” Although Gronk had just two documented concussions during his NFL career, anybody who ever laced em’ up knows the true number is exponentially higher, especially given Gronkowski’s viciously physical approach.
His admission should be terrifying for any current or former player, a clear sign that Gronk’s decision to retire at 29 was in fact the right decision. In August, the former Patriot told NBC News, “My head used to be thicker, like a centimeter of liquid in some spots, and you feel it. I’d be like, ‘What the heck?’ You could put indents in my head.”
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) September 12, 2019
Surely Gronkowski’s comments penetrated Brady’s head. They are extremely close, and Brady reads and watches everything. But the QB can counter with the fact that almost eight months have passed since those painful statements.
After all, Gronk’s agent Drew Rosenhaus said upon finalizing a trade from New England to Tampa last week, “He tells me he feels fantastic, the best he’s ever felt…he passed his physical with flying colors.” Sure he did—no team nor physical known to man can detect chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in the living, they can only find the degenerative brain disease in the dead.
As part of a 2017 study, Boston University researcher Dr. Ann McKee examined the brains of 202 deceased football players and found that 110 of the 111 brains of former NFL players had CTE, or serious damage.
What about personal responsibility, you ask? Absolutely. Gronkowski is 30 years old and capable of making his own decisions rather than rely on a money-hungry agent or legacy-chasing quarterback. But somebody in Gronk’s inner circle has to throw the challenge flag here, and who better than Brady, who is by all accounts the only player capable of plucking him from his new gig as a WWE hype man.
A top five all-time tight end, Gronkowski is dangerously ill-informed on head injuries and their potential longterm implications. A September Twitter exchange revealed the extent of his ignorance. The back and forth was with Dr. Chris Nowinski, the CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation, who co-founded Boston University’s CTE Center.
“It is fixable. I fixed mine. There are plenty of methods in this world that allow the brain to recover from severe damage,” Gronk tweeted to Nowinski. The CTE expert and former Harvard football player replied, “neurodegenerative diseases (CTE, Alzheimer’s, etc.) cannot be ‘fixed’ or cured today. They eventually win.”
Brady and Gronkowski may in the short term win another Super Bowl (the Bucs’ odds have improved from 50:1 to 9:1) but it could come at the cost of Gronkowski’s long-term health. It’s time for Brady to use his legendary leadership skills and, as cringeworthy as it might be, insist Gronk return to WrestleMania.