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Gronkowski Speaks

Colin Darland/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizonas Rob Gronkowski addresses the media for the first time in months after a controversial back surgery that left him out of action for the entirety of the 2009 Season.
Colin Darland
Colin Darland/Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona’s Rob Gronkowski addresses the media for the first time in months after a controversial back surgery that left him out of action for the entirety of the 2009 Season.

The Arizona football program suffered a devastating blow when junior tight end Rob Gronkowski was lost for the season with a back injury. The public was kept in the dark throughout training camp and the first few weeks of the season, unsure of whether or not Gronkowski would play this season. Head coach Mike Stoops announced during the Iowa road trip that Gronkowski would undergo back surgery and miss the remainder of the season.

Arizona’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving touchdowns and receiving yards for a tight end, spoke at a press conference for the first time this season Wednesday morning, covering everything from injury details to his future in football.

Q: So what have the past two months been like for you?

A: Very stressful. I had to take it slowly and I wanted to be with the team. I just didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know what the future looked like for me for this season. I didn’t know if I was going to have the surgery or not. I didn’t know if I was going to rehab, so I was playing it out for a couple weeks at the beginning. It was just really stressful, (I) just wanted to be with the team.

Q: What happened in the week leading up to the Iowa game when you practiced?

A: From the beginning, I saw a lot of doctors — big time doctors — and a lot of them were saying, ‘Most likely you’re going to need the surgery.’ But a couple (of doctors) were saying ‘do the rehab’ and there was about a 25 percent chance that if I do the rehab, all the symptoms will go away, and if all the symptoms go away from rehab I can play. Obviously I wanted to be with the team, I wanted to play this season, and if I did the rehab I could get about nine to 10 games in if I was symptom free. Going into the Iowa week, I went to practice, I was feeling all right, I did my thing but (the pain) was coming back and came back right after practice. The pain was just shooting back down my legs, and the doctors said that if there’s any symptoms at all it’s not safe one bit to play. After that practice I went in and I just wanted to get the surgery done and get it over with and get to my future and be healthy.

Q: What type of surgery did you have?

A: I got a microdiscectomy. I had a pretty bad herniated disk.

Q: How, specifically, did you injure yourself?

A: I really don’t know the specifics, but it was a week before camp and I was hurting. I came back, camp started, and I didn’t say anything really until camp started. I couldn’t even move my legs anymore. All my strength was gone, my back was killing, I was probably running about a six-flat 40 (yard dash). If you guys were looking at me that first day of practice I was running like one mile per hour. Then I was like, ‘This is serious.’ I went in and finally got the MRI and there was a pretty bad herniation.

Q: How long were you in denial about whether or not this was just a bump or a bruise?

A: That’s what I thought at first, but then when camp started and it cut off all of my strength in my legs — I tried to go at first and was like, ‘maybe it’s just the first day,’ because I hadn’t ran in a while and I kept going and it was just terrible. I had to go in and say something.

Q: Herniated disc — were there nerve problems, too?

A: Yeah, when I got the surgery they hooked me up to like the nerve thing and the doctors said my one nerve was working only 5 percent.

Q: How do you feel now?

A: Right now I’m just taking it off. It’s like five weeks I can only walk around. I sit at home about eight hours a day playing video games on the recliner. I play Halo on Xbox, so my Halo skills are up — no one talks garbage to me anymore. If you want to challenge me in Halo you can come. But the first five weeks I can just walk around and do nothing. I can’t bend over, I can’t lift, I can’t twist for five weeks and then I start rehabbing.

Q: Do you remember the instance when it happened?

A: Not necessarily, it just came to me. I think it was just overall wear and tear from just doing everything.

Q: Could you play in a bowl game, or is your season over?

A: The chance of playing in a bowl game is really slim. Obviously I would love to, but would I want to take that chance? Am I healthy yet? Stuff like that. If I go out there feeling good and get hit (and get hurt again) because I’m not recovered all the way yet, why go out there and take that chance? It’s going to be a really slim chance that I play in the bowl game.

Q: Do you plan to be back next year?

A: I’m going to definitely look into it and look into the NFL. You have to always look at that option — I mean it’s there, you have to look at it, it’s a big career opportunity. But if I don’t like what I get back and all of that, I’m definitely going to come back (to Arizona). But if (the NFL) is looking solid like I would hope it to, you definitely have to look at that and weigh your options. But I have no clue what’s going to happen. First off, I’m just trying to get healthy. It all depends if I recover well or if I don’t recover well.

Q: What would make you decide to go to the NFL?

A: It would definitely have to be the first round (of the NFL Draft), or else I won’t go.

Q: What’s it like watching UA on TV?

A: It’s kind of brutal. I want to be out there really bad. Everyone in the program took a hit (when I got hurt) but people don’t understand that it hit me the most. I thought that this was going to be my season, the team’s season. I thought we were going to make it to the ‘Big House,’ I wanted to be with the team to make it to the Rose Bowl this year. I was preparing myself in the summer really hard, I was ready to get out there, I was ready to lead the team. And then it took a big hit. People don’t understand, I might not show it, but I feel it. It’s brutal, it’s hard to watch the games and it’s hard to be there with the team because I just want to be out there the whole time. Especially with my brother, it’s his last year and I wanted to play with him.

Q: Did you have to stay overnight after the surgery? How was that?

A: Yeah I stayed overnight for one night. It was all right, the nurses were nice to me (laughs).

Q: Has this experience made you appreciate being healthy?

A: Yeah, it makes me appreciate this game a lot. I’m going to be hungry when I come back out. You can see how you can just have the game taken away from you. When I get back I’m going to appreciate every moment. Always going to be working hard, never going to take a day off, I can just tell.

Q: How have your teammates been toward you throughout the process?

A: All the guys that had surgeries — they understand, I’ve become closer with those guys. Now I feel what they felt. Vaughn Dotsy, in high school, had the same surgery so I’ve talked to him a lot and I play video games with him a lot now. A lot of players come up to me, it builds a relationship like they show they care for you. That’s definitely a team.

Q: What’s your impression of what Nick Foles has done here in the last couple games?

A: Very good, I knew  he could do that. I could just tell in practice, me and him always had a connection going especially in the summer. He was throwing me a lot of fades in 7-on-7 and (the ball) was always there. I knew he was going to be this kind of quarterback. He’s definitely legit.

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