Rob Gronkowski’s concussion status becomes early Super Bowl concern for Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots’ third Super Bowl appearance in the past four years already has a defining storyline.

The status of Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski, who left the AFC championship game with a concussion, will loom large over the next two weeks.

Gronkowski left the AFC championship in the second quarter after a violent helmet-to-helmet hit by Jacksonville Jaguars safety Barry Church. He was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul on the play, and Gronkowski almost immediately left the sideline to go into concussion protocol in the locker room. Gronkowski was initially ruled questionable to return before later being downgraded to out.

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Rob Gronkowski suffers concussion during AFC title game
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Rob Gronkowski suffers concussion during AFC title game
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots drops a pass before being hit by Barry Church #42 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots is hit by Barry Church #42 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots is hit by Barry Church #42 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots reacts after an injury after being hit by Barry Church #42 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots reacts after an injury in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots reacts after an injury in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) reacts after a hit by Jacksonville Jaguars strong safety Barry Church (not pictured) during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) lays on the field as Jacksonville Jaguars strong safety Barry Church (42) reacts during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski is taken to the locker room after a hit to his head during the second quarter. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Jan. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots walks off the field after an injury in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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There’s no uniform timetable on returns from concussions, although the two weeks between games will certainly help his return.

The first step of the NFL’s concussion protocol is rest. That’s followed by “gradual exercise” and “gradual return to practice and play” only a player returns to what’s called “baseline status.”

In order to return, there’s a process that’s outlined in the NFL head, neck and spine committee’s return to participation protocol.  Along with the Patriots team physician clearing Gronkowski, he also needs to be cleared by an “Independent Neurological Consultant with expertise in concussion.”

According to a Boston Globe article in 2016, Gronkowski has one publicized concussion. It happened in 2013 on a freak play where he also tore his ACL and MCL.

For the next two weeks, Gronkowski’s status will loom large over the Patriots and their hopes to win back-to-back Super Bowls.

See more from the game: 

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AFC Championship game: Patriots vs. Jaguars
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AFC Championship game: Patriots vs. Jaguars
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady holds the football before the game. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 21, 2018. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Leonard Fournette #27 of the Jacksonville Jaguars walks onto the field before the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots hands the ball offsides to Dion Lewis #33 in the first quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Brandin Cooks #14 of the New England Patriots is defended by Jalen Ramsey #20 and Telvin Smith #50 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the first quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) breaks up a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee (11) during the first quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Marcedes Lewis #89 of the Jacksonville Jaguars celebrates after a touchdown in the first quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots is hit by Barry Church #42 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots walks off the field after an injury in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: James White #28 of the New England Patriots carries the ball for a touchdown in the second quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) drops back to pass against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Jacksonville Jaguars' Carey Grant stretches out while making a gain during the second quarter. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA on Jan. 21, 2018.
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots is tackled by Marcell Dareus #99 of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: New England Patriots' Brandin Cooks can't come up with the catch defended by Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey, left, and A.J. Bouye during the third quarter. The New England Patriots host the Jacksonville Jaguars in an NFL AFC championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, MA, on Jan. 21, 2018. (Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Danny Amendola #80 of the New England Patriots throws the ball during the second half of the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown with Danny Amendola #80 in the fourth quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Brandon Bolden #38 of the New England Patriots reacts in the fourth quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) catches a touchdown pass ahead of Jacksonville Jaguars free safety Tashaun Gipson (39) during the fourth quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars reacts in the fourth quarter during the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Jan 21, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with wide receiver Chris Hogan (15) after a touchdown by wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
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