As most Patriots fans should know by now, Rob Gronkowski just had his fourth surgery on his injured forearm. The infection is clear, which is great news for him, but there is another question mark surrounding his health. He may be having another surgery, this time on his back, to correct a lingering disk issue. Anyone that checked the Patriots’ injury report over the past season before Gronk’s forearm injury noticed that he was always listed as “Questionable” with a back injury. In fact, Gronk has had lingering back problems ever since sitting out the entire 2009 season after injuring it while lifting. This injury is what led to him falling in the draft until the second round. While this current disk issue is unrelated to the back injury in 2009, the constant injuries are cause for concern.
If Gronk were to have the back surgery, the recovery time would coincide with the recovery time for his forearm. This is a good sign, but his strength and conditioning will likely take a hit while he recovers from both. After he is fully recovered, he may not be in a position to play immediately. He may need to sit out some extra time to regain his strength and endurance so he can be effective again. The slated recovery time is 10 weeks, which would allow him to be ready for week 1, but is that wise?
We have already seen Gronkowski rushed back from his arm recovery for the playoffs, only to re-break his arm and set him back further. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that Gronkowski is way more valuable to the Patriots healthy and on the field, than constantly in a state of recovery. His presence is even more valuable this year with the new cast of receivers that Tom Brady will be throwing to. Regardless of his chemistry with them, Gronkowski needs to be his go-to guy. More importantly, Gronkowski needs to be his go-to guy in the playoffs. The past two seasons Gronk hasn’t been there in the playoffs when Brady needed him. With a healthy Gronk on the field, one could argue that the Patriots win Super Bowl XLVI and possibly beat the Ravens to advance to the Super Bowl last year.
With all that said, when should Gronk play? The Patriots already have a stud at TE with Aaron Hernandez and this season Jake Ballard will be able to play after returning from torn knee ligaments. He proved he can play at a high level with the Giants when they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, so he can be a more effective fill-in for Gronk than Dan Fells or Michel Hoomanawanui. Both of those tight ends will also be returning this season, so the Patriots have four talented TE’s to take Gronkowski’s place in the event that he needs extra recovery time. I would rather see Gronkowski take a couple extra weeks off in order to regain his strength and ensure that he is completely healthy. Despite the Dolphins beefing up their team, the Patriots are still the kings of the AFC East and should be readily able to keep their crown without Gronkowski. He is really needed at the end of the season when the games are more important, particularly the playoffs.
The Patriots open the season playing the Bills, Jets, and Buccaneers. These are three very winnable games without Gronkowski, so he should sit these games and return for week 4 when the Patriots travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons. That game will be a huge test for the Patriots and having him on the field will go a long way. What do you guys think?