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Super Bowl 2012: What If ... Rob Gronkowski Doesn't Play For Patriots

Rob Gronkowski has successfully stolen the spotlight leading up to Super Bowl XLVI between the New England Patriots and New York Giants on Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Unfortunately, he's done so for the wrong reason.

More: Check out the pre-released 2012 Super Bowl commercials.

Gronkowski suffered a high ankle sprain during the Patriots' 23-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game, creating extreme media speculation over the last two weeks. The question: will he play or won't he?

Chances are, Gronk's going to play. He's a gamer. It would take a lot for any player to miss the Super Bowl.

But what if Gronk can't play? Maybe this ankle injury is worse than we all though, and Gronk just won't be ready. That's certainly a big blow for the Patriots and Tom Brady, who has used the second-year beast tight end as a safety blanket.

Gronkowski is much more than a safety blanket, though. He's an all out machine. This season, Gronk had a tight end record 17 touchdown receptions while racking up 1,327 receiving yards on 90 receptions. That's pretty good, no?

The sad truth is, if the injury is worse than expected, the Patriots may not miss Gronkowski if he misses Super Bowl XLVI. The reason is complex. First, even if he does play, it's likely that Gronkowski will not be as effective as he could be, and on a big stage like this, that would be a blow to the Pats' chance.

Secondly, the Patriots are pretty set in the receiving department without him. Sure, Gronk would be missed, but the Pats still have playmakers like Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch. Maybe even Chad Ochocinco. We all certainly hope Gronk can play, but all hope isn't totally lost without him, either.

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