FOXBOROUGH -- Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward, whose crushing hit on the Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski that took the tight end out of the game, said he made a conscious decision on where to target him because he was concerned about the possibility of being fined.
“I think they ran a seam route and I closed on the pass,” Ward said. “It was a decision I made, and just to make a tackle on a big man. Unfortunately, he got hurt, but if I would have hit him up high, there’s a chance that I would get fined and all that other stuff, so I’m just being safe.”
It’s not an easy decision, Ward said. The sheer size of Gronkowski (listed at 6-6, 265 pounds) has a player like him re-think how to attempt to take player like him down.
“It’s kind of being caught between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “It’s a decision you have to make, but you have to follow the rules at the same time. Gronk’s a big dude, he’s not small by any means, so already, he has that height where it just makes it difficult. I made a tackle. Unfortunately, he got hurt, but if he would have got up, it would have been no discussion about this right now.”
Ward did attempt to speak to the Patriots tight end as he was being carted off the field. He was reportedly taken to the hospital after the game.
“My intention is never to hurt anyone,” Ward said. “That’s not what this game is about. That’s not how I play. I hate to see guys go down with any type of injury. I just wanted him to know, whether he accepted it or not, it wasn’t an intentional hit to injure him, but we have to play this game. We have to play it the way that they force us to, and unfortunately, it incurred an injury for him.”
Ward didn’t say whether Gronkowski responded.
“You know, he’s in a tough spot, you know? I wouldn’t expect him to just be accepting, you know, but I had to send that message regardless. I hope he heals right. I don’t know what happened, but I hope everything is okay with him, and he has a good recovery, but I gotta play football, man. I gotta play football.”