When the New England Patriots take the field against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday afternoon, there will be one notable player out of the lineup.
All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski is set to miss at least the next eight weeks due to surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, which will more than likely bring an end to his 2016 season.
With Gronkowski out of the mix for Sunday's tilt, Fisher voiced some uncertainty about what to anticipate from the Patriots' offense minus their top skilled-position threat.
"The interesting thing about what we’re going into, is with ‘Gronk’ being, now down , now we don’t know what to expect out of their offense," Fisher said. "We’re going to have to, as I said, be able to adjust defensively.”
Since entering the league, Gronkowski has played a major role in the Patriots' passing attack setting an NFL-record with five double-digit touchdown receptions seasons in five out of his first six years in the league. He has already put forth a Hall-of-Fame caliber career that includes breaking multiple NFL records such as being the first tight end to have three seasons with 10-plus touchdowns receptions and 1,000-plus receiving yards. He also holds the Patriots' records for most receiving touchdowns (68).
“He’s a huge part. He’s a big time playmaker down the field, in addition to his blocking ability," Fisher said. "But again, (Patriots Head Coach) Bill (Belichick) has always found a way to adjust. That’s the unanticipated consequences of the injury – I feel bad for ‘Gronk’ and hope he comes back healthy."
However, injuries have also been a huge part of his career as he's missed a significant chunk of time. He underwent surgery to repair his ankle after Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. Gronkowski suffered a broken forearm in the following season that required surgery, and then he underwent the knife again after re-injuring it.
He would then undergo his third operation on the forearm in 2013, which focused on cleaning up an infection in the area. Shortly later, Gronkowski had surgery on his arm a fourth time along with back surgery, which marked his fourth operation in a span of a year. To top it all off, he also had reconstructive knee surgery. This latest procedure will mark the eighth known surgery that he has had in his NFL career.
That said, the Rams are well aware of the type of player that Tom Brady still is despite being the ripe age of 39. Although he missed the first four games of the season, Brady is putting together an MVP-caliber season throwing for 2,201 yards with 18 touchdowns along just one interception, ranks fourth in the league in completion percentage (68.4), and first in passer rating (116.7).
"You can’t fool him. He’s got a great feel for what he’s doing – he knows where to go with the football," Fisher said. "Footwork is absolutely excellent, he’s tall, he’s got an extremely strong arm and he can make all the throws. You can’t fool him with this or that – he knows where to go with the football."
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams also voiced a similar sentiment about the two-time league MVP still holding a tremendous level of respect for what he can do on the field even in his 17th season in the NFL.
"I think that he is the epitome of playing the position. He’s going to go down as arguably, if not the best – one of the very best in this league," Williams said. "The reason I like him is he has a chip on his shoulders. A lot of people made mistakes on him. Tom feels like he has to prove it every day in practice. He feels like he has to prove it every day in a game."
All in all, the Rams clearly know the challenges lie ahead on both sides of the ball against the Patriots led by their star quarterback.
“It’s a great challenge. It’s about us competing and that’s what we do – we compete. Every week’s a challenge,"Fisher said. "You go into every game expecting to win. Anything can happen, but Tom, he’s won his fair share of football games over the years. But, I feel good about where we are defensively. It’s going to be a team effort – special teams and then the offense is going to have to score some points. This is not going to be a 6-3 game – that’s not going to happen.”