One Step Forward, One Step Back For Gronk

Christine Roy
May 29, 2013 at 09:33am ET

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It was a freak accident that nobody recognized in real time. But after the Patriots 59-24 beat down on the Indianapolis Colts, word came out that Rob Gronkowski had broken his forearm on the team's final point after kick, with just under four minutes left in the game. Harsh words started flying, blaming Bill Belichick for even having his starters on the field at that point but he wasn't to be blamed. It was just bad positioning and a tough break for one of the best tight ends in the game.

First it was the forearm and now it's the back. We could be seeing a few less Gronk spikes this season if back surgery is in his future. (FILE:USPresswire)

How the story has unfolded since then, has not been in Gronk's favor. We all know how it goes, he healed up at the what seemed like the speed of light only to come back and re-break his arm. Then there were the infections, trips to Vegas and four surgeries later, here we are, talking about his back. Yes, his back. With the infection now gone from his forearm and a fifth surgery on it unlikely, the attention has shifted to a back condition that has caused him continuous discomfort for a year. So now instead of thinking he'll be back in a few months, we could be headed for a season missing a few more Gronk spikes than we'd like.

The biggest issue is nobody knows just how serious his back condition is. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network and, Gronk is set to meet with a specialist in three to four weeks. He's undergone an MRI to determine the severity of his condition but no medical opinions have been formed. As of this moment it seems as though the team and the public are living in a state of limbo. Originally a return for training camp seemed logical. Have the forearm surgery in May and take a few months to heal, no big deal. But this monkey wrench of a potential back surgery has created a lot of uncertainty.

If it turns out the back condition isn't that big of a deal and he can manage to have a quick recovery again, the Patriots shouldn't have to change their season plan too much. However, if it turns out to be something much more severe and complex, we could see the Pats roll out a significantly different game plan. No longer would the dual tight end set be effective and defenses certainly would have an easier time against the Patriots. Gronk is one of the most difficult players to match up against because he is both big and physical. We've seen him carry defenders on his back down the field as he presses for more yards. He's a big factor in the Patriots offense and we've seen the struggle when he isn't able to play.

Right now this situation sits at "we'll cross that bridge when we get to it." However, when we get to it, this could be a very scary bridge to cross. The Patriots need to be preparing for the worst and developing the younger players in OTAs. Tom Brady has said that by the middle of training camp he'll know who he is most comfortable throwing to and hopefully Gronk will be able to be a factor in that equation. But if he isn't, we could potentially be without him for the first half of the season. Yet another wrinkle into the Patriots offensive fold and it seems as though this season Josh McDaniels has his work cut out for him.

But while the forecast looks grim, one thing to take comfort in is the fact that Gronk is, for lack of a better term, a freak of nature. Hopefully if all goes well, we'll see him back on the field at some point during the upcoming season.