The biggest storyline heading into Sunday's Broncos-Patriots game is the latest iteration of the Brady-Manning Bowl. But it will also be the first time Rob Gronkowski and T.J. Ward meet on the field since Ward's helmet-to-knee hit ended Gronkowski's 2013 season last December.
At the time, Ward was with the Browns, and the low tackle tore Gronk's ACL and MCL.
"I feel bad he got hurt, you know, but that's about it," Ward said on Wednesday, via the Boston Globe. "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."
NFL rules about hitting would-be receivers high have led to defenders going low, and sometimes that has led to knee injuries.
"Gronk's a big dude. He gets hit, and he keeps going, Ward continued.
"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."
Gronkowski, meanwhile, heaped praise on the Broncos' revamped defense.
“They have very good pass rushers, a very good secondary, and they have good linebackers, so just overall they have a very solid defense,” Gronkowski said. “They are playing very well together and they are a very good team.”
Not surprisingly, Gronk was also impressed with the Manning-led offense.
“I feel like Denver is the best team in the NFL right now,” he said. “They have a solid offense and a very, very solid defense, great rushers. A very good team. So we have to be ready. We have to be prepared. We have to bring all that we have to compete out there."
The fun starts Sunday at 4:25 pm. ET.