ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos will bring several players to Foxborough on Sunday with close ties to the Patriots organization – Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, and of course Peyton Manning.
But Public Enemy No. 1 in the stadium might be Broncos strong safety T.J. Ward. It was Ward, then a member of the Browns, who cut down Rob Gronkowski last year in Week 14 with a helmet-to-knee blow that tore Gronkowski’s right ACL and MCL. The blow ended Gronkowski’s season and caused him another long offseason of surgery and rehab.
Ward, who signed a four-year deal with Denver and got $14 million guaranteed last offseason, said he feels no regrets about the play, and said he wasn’t purposely trying to take out Gronkowski’s knee.
“I feel bad he got hurt, you know, but that’s about it,” Ward said Wednesday. “I’m just playing fast out there, and coincidentally, it was a bang-bang play. I think if he wouldn’t have gotten hurt, then it wouldn’t be an issue.”
Gronkowski caught a pass down the left seam, and Ward immediately took him out at the knee. Patriots fans were upset with Ward for going low, but Ward, who at 5 feet 10 inches and 200 pounds is 7 inches and 65 pounds lighter than Gronk, said that going low was the only way to tackle him.
“Gronk’s a big dude. He gets hit, and he keeps going. Guys bounce off him, and he’s throwing guys left and right,” Ward said. “I was taught that if you can take a guy’s wheels away from him, he’s no longer mobile, and that’s what you’ve got to do with big guys. I’m not going to go in there and bang heads with somebody that’s 60 pounds more than me. I’m going to hurt myself.”
Ward said he hasn’t talked to Gronkowski since the hit, which occurred last December.
“I shook his hand after it happened, but I don’t see no reason to reach out to him,” Ward said. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world between those hashes.”
Ward said he doesn’t think the Patriots will do anything dirty to him Sunday, but is ready for some payback.