Willis McGahee, Rob Gronkowski out up to eight weeks

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (L) celebrates his touchdown in front of Indianapolis...

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (L) celebrates his touchdown in front of Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker Kavell Conner during the first half of their NFL football game in Foxborough, Massachusetts November 18, 2012. (REUTERS)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:37 PM ET

Willis McGahee tore a knee ligament. Rob Gronkowski broke his arm. Byron Leftwich fractured two ribs.

Just another Sunday this year in the NFL, right?

Following day-after doctor exams, MRIs and X-rays, these were the biggest of Monday's big-name injury revelations.

McGahee, the star running back on the 7-3 Denver Broncos, will miss six to eight weeks after suffering what head coach John Fox described Monday as a "non-surgical tear" of the MCL in his right knee in Sunday's victory over San Diego.

It's a huge blow to the Broncos, as McGahee gave Peyton Manning and the passing attack an ample running threat to help keep defences honest. Rookie Ronnie Hillman should get the majority of McGahee's carries.

In his last college game after the 2002 season, McGahee tore the ACL, MCL and PCL in his left knee and sat out his first NFL season in Buffalo during the long recovery.

Gronkowski broke his left forearm while blocking on an extra point after a meaningless late TD in New England's 59-24 win over Indianapolis. He already has had surgery to repair the break and, according to Tom Curran of CSN New England, will miss four to eight weeks.

There are six weeks remaining in the regular season.

Gronkowski has accounted for a quarter of Tom Brady's passing yards this season, and his importance to the Patriots offence increased when his tight-end counterpart, Aaron Hernandez, became hobbled by a severely sprained ankle. Hernandez is expected to return Thursday night against the New York Jets.

Pats head coach Bill Belichick instantly took heat Monday for having had Gronkowski in for so meaningless a play.

Belichick defended the move in a radio interview, saying it wouldn't be a "successful approach" for a coach to tell one player he has to stay in the game, while taking another out just because he's "really important."

As for Leftwich, he heroically finished Sunday night's loss to Baltimore despite fracturing two ribs and separating a shoulder, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported.

Leftwich was playing in place of Ben Roethlisberger, who himself suffered shoulder and rib injuries six days earlier and is not expected back for two or three more weeks.

It is "unlikely" Leftwich will start Sunday at Cleveland, the report said. In that event, Charlie Batch presumably would start instead, and the Steelers would have to sign somebody ASAP to back him up.

It was clear that something was wrong with Leftwich, as by the fourth quarter he winced after every hit, and was unable to reach receivers on deep patterns.

If I'm an underworked shoulder or ribs specialist, I'm moving to Pittsburgh.

FOOTBALL GODS HATE MERIWEATHER: Washington safety Brandon Meriweather tore the ACL in his right knee Sunday against Philadelphia. It was his first game of the season, as he'd been recovering from a sprained MCL and PCL in his left knee. How unfair is that?

REED SUSPENDED: The NFL suspended Baltimore safety Ed Reed for one game for repeatedly violating the rule prohibiting hits to the head and neck area. Barring a successful appeal, he'll sit out the Ravens' game Sunday in San Diego. ProFootballTalk.com connected the dots and determined the NFL's threshold here might be three egregious hits.

JAGS PROMOTE HENNE: After Chad Henne nearly led Jacksonville to a huge upset of the Texans in Houston, the Jaguars have promoted him to starting quarterback. Blaine Gabbert had been playing almost as miserably this season as last. Henne looked good in relief of Gabbert on Nov. 9 against Indianapolis, and he threw for 354 yards and four touchdowns in Houston, without an interception.

HARVIN STILL OUT: Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin did not practise Monday, coming off the team's bye week. He suffered a bad sprain to his left ankle on Nov. 4. Head coach Leslie Frazier said Harvin did not have a setback last week, and that most of the swelling is gone. But Harvin "just hadn't made enough progress to put him out there yet, so we'll see how he does on Wednesday."

ELI'S ARM HAS 'MORE POP': New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning said his throwing arm benefitted from a week off. "It felt good," he said after Monday's practice. "I think it definitely had a little more pop to it. I felt no fatigue (before the bye). Obviously, sometimes during the course of the season you may not realize it. But today the arm felt good. I threw some deep ones and didn't have to struggle to get it out there."

REID VOWS TO 'KEEP BATTLING'

The Andy Reid firing watch becomes equally more uncomfortable as inevitable with each passing Monday.

Asked this week whether he is considering stepping down after his 3-7 Philadelphia Eagles lost their sixth straight in Washington, Reid said:

"I'm standing in front of the team and telling them these are the things we need to do, one of which is to continue to battle. So, I think that'd be a cop-out. That's not how I see things. That's not the way I'm wired.

"We're going to keep battling and do it as a team. I'm not going to tell the guys one thing and then do the other."

On whether Michael Vick will be the starting QB when he returns to full health, Reid said: "Well, we'll see how he does this week, but yes."

Rookie Nick Foles started for the severely concussed Vick against the Redskins, and was ineffective.

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/krykslants/


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