Tight End Rob Gronkowski expects to play, though injury, in the big game

American football tight end for the New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski led headlines after the New England Patriots landed in Indianapolis ahead of Super Bowl XLVI Sunday. The tight end  Gronkowski suffered an ankle injury in the AFC Championship Game suffered a high left ankle sprain in the AFC Championship Game. He, on sunday arrived in Indianapolis wearing a protective walking boot.

While Gronkowski, who set single-season records for scoring and receiving yards by a tight end this season, did return and saw playing time after the injury against the Ravens, there is much speculation surrounding his availability and effectiveness given the injury.

With the Patriots --- of course --- not saying much, CBS Sports' Clark Judge took to the medical field to get an opinion. If you're a Patriots fan, you'd better hope he seeks a second opinion. Judge talked with Steven Weinfeld, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, who said that he'd be surprised if Gronkowski played.

"This is the kind of thing where trainers could potentially stabilize the ankle externally with tape," Weinfeld said of the injury, "and potentially some type of anti-inflammatory injection could be used to kill the pain. But he's such a big guy who needs to cut sharply that there's much more stress with this type of injury vs. someone who just needs to run straight ahead running without cutting. Even if he is able to play," Weinfeld said, "I would think his effectiveness would be limited."

Judge also offers comparable history as to why Gronkowski will be limited if he plays at all. Last year, Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey suffered a similar injury and didn't play in the Super Bowl. His teammate, Ben Roethlisberger, also experienced a high ankle sprain this season and was extremely ineffective thereafter.

The official word from the Patriots is that Gronkowski is day-to-day. What that means, of course, is anyone's guess. The fact that he hasn't participated in practice since suffering the injury could raise some eyebrows, but since landing in Indianapolis, the tight end has told reporters that he should be on the field Sunday.

News on Gronkowski's injury promises to be one of the main talking points leading up to the game. Interestingly enough, similar injuries were key factors in the last two Super Bowls. Pouncey garnered talk last year while Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney was the subject of ankle injury talk in 2010.

As the USA Today reported, Brady and the Patriots are planning on being prepared for whatever may come from Gronkowski's injury: Brady told the USA Today: "You've got to prepare for every one of these situations that come up. You always have to have contingency plans."

Tom Curran of Comcast New England, however, said flat out that Gronkowski will, in fact, play on Sunday. As Curran explains, the tight end will be ready to play --- thanks to the assistance of pain medication, no doubt --- but the fact that the injury isn't likely to lead to a long-term issue was the biggest question mark surrounding his availability. Once it was determined that playing with the sprain isn't likely to cause long-term injury, it was reported by Curran and others that Gronkowski would play Sunday.

Rob Gronkowski after the ankle injury

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