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The Latest On Gronk's Concussion, Plus NHLer Brian Boyle's Miracle Family22:20
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New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is hit by Jacksonville Jaguars safety Barry Church (42) as he breaks up a pass during the first half of the AFC championship. Gronk suffered a concussion on the play. (Steven Senne/AP)
New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is hit by Jacksonville Jaguars safety Barry Church (42) as he breaks up a pass during the first half of the AFC championship. Gronk suffered a concussion on the play. (Steven Senne/AP)
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Season Ticket guest host Joe Sullivan (@Globesullivan) welcomes two guests to discuss Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's head injury. They talk about whether the hit that knocked him out of Sunday's AFC Championship game was dirty, whether it's possible to legislate those types of hits out of football, and whether he'll be available for the Super Bowl.

Then, they talk about why New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle's return to the TD Garden will be so meaningful for him and his family.

Guests

Interview Highlights

On whether Barry Church's hit on Rob Gronkowski was dirty

Tara Sullivan: It always looks so violent, of course, so you immediately want to think dirty play. But I thought it was a legitimate accident. I thought he led with the shoulder, so I don't think he intended to hit the head. But he did and was properly penalized. I know there are a million opinions out there, but that's the way I saw it, and I think that's why Patriots fans were almost upset that it wasn't worse because he did hit with the head. And you could see why Jags fans were upset because they felt like he tried to do the right thing and the the helmet-to-helmet was not the intention.

Scott Thurston: I agree with that assessment. What's Barry Church supposed to do in that instance? If he goes low on Gronkowski, that's a dirty play,= just as T.J. Ward did when he took out Gronk's knee two years ago. So, to get a guy of Gronk's size down, what's Church supposed to do? He led with the shoulder. The helmet-to-helmet contact was incidental. I don't blame Church at all.

Tara Sullivan: I think you still have to throw the flag there because it was, in the end, a helmet-to-helmet hit. We've seen the reverse — Gronk himself served a one-game suspension this season for a play that was clearly after the fact and dirty, outside the bounds of the rules. I didn't see that in this play. It's just the unfortunate outcome of a violent game.

"He could feel like he's on the mend and feeling good today, and then by Friday he could be having headaches and that post-concussion effect."

Scott Thurston

On whether players should be ejected for helmet-to-helmet hits and leading with their head

Tara Sullivan: An ejection is a huge, momentum changing play that affects the outcome of the game so much that I'm not sure football is ready to take that step. I think they're probably nervous about it becoming weaponized in a way that you can use it to affect the outcome of a game. I'm not sure, that seems very drastic to me to have an immediate ejection based on a play like that.

Joe Sullivan: When they get serious about wanting to eliminate helmet-to-helmet contact and players leading with their head, that's when they'll put ejections into it.

Tara Sullivan: Well, I don't know that it's ever going to be eliminated. It's a violent game. Football is ugly to watch. I mean, I get it, you want to legislate safety into it as much as possible ... It's just, it's inherently violent. It's a high collision sport. So, I agree 100% with the sentiment. I would love to not see helmet-to-helmet contact or these types of brain injuries. I just don't know that football ever exists without them.

On recovering from a concussion

Tara Sullivan: It's not like you break your leg and here are five surgical options and these always work. With brain injuries and concussions, it's never the same thing. It's just such a complicated issue to understand.

Scott Thurston: We've seen it this year with the Patriots alone. Stephon Gilmore suffered a concussion and he missed three games. Amendola was diagnosed, missed a game. Shea McClellan had a concussion and missed the entire season.

Tara Sullivan: Yeah, well we don't always know the cumulative effect. Sometimes it's not even the big hit. It could be a series of five seemingly smaller collisions that end up really causing more problems for a player. Yeah, those are great examples of the inconsistency in terms of how each person is affected. So, we don't really know with Gronk how he's going to be.

Scott Thurston: He could feel like he's on the mend and feeling good today, and then by Friday he could be having headaches and that post-concussion effect.

"I would love to not see helmet-to-helmet contact or these types of brain injuries. I just don't know that football ever exists without them."

Tara Sullivan

On Tara Sullivan's column about New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle and his father, who both survived cancer

Tara Sullivan: For the family, it's 100% a miracle. And that's not to use the word in the vein of the normal sports context of "Do you believe in miracles?" or a hockey win in the Olympics. I know sometimes in the sports world [religion] can get awkward. When guys bring up religion, people can be skeptical. But this is a family that is just really, really devoted to faith ... And now [they] have a son taking on this mantle the way that his dad did and they'll all be there in the arena and they'll all be together. I just thought it's a beautiful story.

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