After helmet-to-helmet hit, Pats hopeful Gronk can play in Super Bowl

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It was a hit felt all across New England.

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was taken to the locker room after a helmet-to-helmet hit right before halftime in Sunday's AFC Championship game. He never returned to the game.

Jacksonville Jaguars safety Barry Church was flagged for a personal foul and a visibly shaken Gronk was then evaluated by an independent neurologist and never returned to the field.

Now, fans are wondering if he'll recover in time for the Super Bowl.

Dr. Robert Cantu, head of the Cantu Concussion Center at Emerson Hospital, watched the big game and after seeing the hit, instantly suspected Gronk suffered a concussion.

"His eyes were on the ball. He didn't see the impact coming, so his neck wasn't tense like the player that struck him. So his head was moved violently by the impact and that means the brain was literally sloshed back and forth inside the skull," said Cantu. 

Cantu helped write the NFL's concussion protocol, which was implemented in 2009, and says protocol was written for cases exactly like the Gronk hit.

Cantu did not examine Gronkowski, but based on what he saw, he thinks chances are good that Gronk will play in the Super Bowl.

"If he recovers like  most, he'll be free of symptoms in a week. And be able to go through exertional protocol and be good to play the following week. We don't know that's going to happen. But the odds are, more likely than not, that's what we will see," said Cantu. 

During the off-season this year the NFL added a measure that would punish teams that failed to properly enforce the concussion protocols.

Any violation either in-game or return-to-participation could cost a team fines, or even the forfeiture of draft picks.