Column: Gronkowski up for game, hopes ankle is

January 31, 2012 - 7:45 PM
Super Bowl Football

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski answers questions during Media Day for NFL football's Super Bowl XLVI Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — He can name the three Kardashian sisters, and he's got the most talked about body part at the Super Bowl. There's a billboard in the Boston area touting his "party" line and a "Party Gronk" song enjoying a run on the Internet.

Even coach Bill Belichick can't stop Rob Gronkowski from having fun — and he surely was having a lot of it Tuesday at Super Bowl media day. When a television personality told him she agreed to wear a Giants bikini on air if the New Yorkers won the Super Bowl, the Patriots tight end had a ready comeback: "At least there's a positive if we lose."

At least he didn't try to answer in the elementary Spanish he picked up at the University of Arizona, though he surely had to be tempted. His "Yo soy fiesta" line — translated literally into "I am the party" became an instant smash when he said it following the Patriots win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC title game.

Then again, "Yo soy dia y dia" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

That was Gronkowski's answer to the most serious question of the day — how he is healing from the high ankle sprain he suffered late in the third quarter of the conference championship. The fact he considers himself day by day had people listening closely, because a lot of football pundits believe the big guy with the uncanny knack for catching touchdown passes could be a difference maker against the Giants.

Channeling his inner Belichick, Gronkowski allowed as how the walking boot he had been wearing was off. He was working hard with trainers, and hoped against hope he would be healthy enough to play.

Any other questions would have to wait until game day.

"I could be 100 percent by then," Gronkowski said. "I could be 2 percent by then."

That's a big range, though the guess is that Gronkowski will be healed enough to line up on offense Sunday at Lucas Oil Field. His own father said as much last week when he told a radio station in Gronkowski's hometown of Buffalo that his son was a fast healer and would be ready for the game.

Gordy Gronkowski surely violated team rules set by the tight-lipped Belichick with the injury report, though Gronkowski didn't seem overly concerned. Just Dad being Dad, pulling for his son to play in the biggest game of his life.

"I'm young. I'm healthy. I hope I'm a quick healer," he said. "I'm anxious to be out there."

The Patriots are just as anxious to have Gronkowski out there, following a breakout second season as a pro where he always seemed open anytime Tom Brady looked his way. At 6-foot-6, he was as effective blocking for Brady as he was catching his passes, setting an NFL record for tight ends with 17 touchdown catches and finishing fifth in the league with 90 receptions.

If he plays, the Giants will have to figure out a way to keep him out of the end zone while also containing fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez. Add in wide receiver Wes Welker, and Brady has three possession targets he likes to use in various combinations.

Still, it is Gronkowski's emergence as a big bruising tight end that has meant the most for the Patriot offense this year.

"This is a player who has written the record books along the way for tight ends,' Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "Gronkowski certainly is someone Brady looks to in the red zone."

Gronkowski — whose brother, Chris, is a fullback for the hometown Colts — talks with the confidence of a player far more experienced. He's got a swagger that makes teammates forget he was still a college student and watching the Super Bowl with his father from the upper deck of University of Phoenix stadium when the Giants and Pats met four years ago.

Fast forward to now, and he's the player everyone scrutinized on arrival to see if he was still wearing his walking boot. (He was.)

"I told him with all the attention he should write 'Mom, I love you' on his sock," Brady said.

Attention is one thing Gronkowski doesn't mind. He patiently sat at a podium on the field at media day answering every question tossed his way, acing the exam when a tabloid TV show reporter asked him to name the three Kardashian sisters.

He's as comfortable with cameras and reporters as he is blocking defensive ends, as quick with a quip as he is finding a seam in the end zone for a toss from a quarterback he began watching while still in elementary school. Though he's never been on a stage as big as this one, he's eager to play the starring role if it means bringing the Patriots another Super Bowl trophy.

"All I want to do is be out there with the team," he said. "Who wouldn't want to be there? It's the Super Bowl."

Gronkowski has been practicing his Spanish, and may be ready to break out a new line if the Patriots win.

"Yo quiero Super Bowl ring?" someone suggested.

He liked that.

"Yeah, I want a Super Bowl ring."

____

Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg