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Super Bowl could hinge on one ankle

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
updated 1:05 PM EST, Fri February 3, 2012
Patriots' Rob Gronkowski's ankle twisted during this tackle in the January 22 AFC championship against the Baltimore Ravens.
Patriots' Rob Gronkowski's ankle twisted during this tackle in the January 22 AFC championship against the Baltimore Ravens.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski hurt his ankle earlier in the playoffs
  • He says he does not know if he will play
  • "Hopefully that ankle hurts," Giants' Tuck says
  • The Giants beat the Patriots in 2008, and are hoping for a repeat

(CNN) -- Not in a long time has the pre-Super Bowl chatter been so dominated by one player's body part.

But Sunday's game in Indianapolis has turned into the saga of the injured ankle of New England Patriots superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski.

While pundits are split on who will clinch the big game between the Patriots and the New York Giants, most agree that the Patriots will be severely hobbled if Gronkowski can't take to the field.

Gronkowski suffered a devastating ankle sprain in the Patriots' playoff win against the Baltimore Ravens on January 22.

Speaking at the Super Bowl media day, Gronkowski says he\'s still not sure if he\'ll play Sunday.
Speaking at the Super Bowl media day, Gronkowski says he's still not sure if he'll play Sunday.

Last week, he was sporting a protective boot over his ankle that he took off Monday, but was still unable to practice most of the week.

At media day Tuesday, Gronkowski said he wasn't sure if he could play Sunday.

"I don't know yet," Gronkowski said. "I am not really worried yet if I am playing or not. We're going day by day. I am taking new steps every day. I am feeling better every day. That is a positive sign. I want to be out there with the team obviously. "

Gronkowski tallied 17 touchdown catches this season - an NFL record -- and is a match up nightmare for any defense.

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He stands 6-foot-6 and packs a hard-to-handle mix of power and speed. He could be the Patriots' most valuable player after quarterback Tom Brady.

The dominating conversation about Gronkowski's status is reminiscent of the lead up to the Super Bowl game in 2005 when then-Eagles wideout Terrell Owens miraculously came back from a severe ankle injury to play in the game.

He caught nine passes for 122 yards, but the Eagles lost the game to the Patriots.

That was also the last Super Bowl the Patriots won. The Pats have appeared in the big game more times than any other team since 1986, and is only the second team in the game's history -- after the Dallas Cowboys -- to win three Super Bowl championships in four years.

Seven years later, the Pats are hoping to do it again.

"Gronk is in the training room every day trying to get ready," Brady said. "He wants to be there. He's going to work his butt off to be there."

Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck hopes not.

"Hopefully that ankle hurts a little more than everyone expects it to and he is not as versatile as he has been," Tuck told ESPN. "You talk about the talent that he is, he had probably the best year for a tight end ever."

No matter what the Patriots do on offense, the key for the Giants lies with their defense, pundits say. The Giants beat the Patriots in 2008 Super Bowl, throwing cold water on the Pats' undefeated season.

In that game, the Giant's ferocious defensive line rushed Brady and sacked him five times.

"No one has been able to figure that out all year," said Brady, referring to the Giants' defensive line this year. "They can rush the quarterback really well and hopefully we can slow them down somehow. They are ready to go and ready to take my head off."

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