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Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski needs back surgery

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Rob Gronkowski needs back surgery (Getty Images)

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski spent his 2012 offseason filming commercials, being the subject of photo shoots and making special appearances. Gronkowski, who famously coined the phrase "Yo Soy Fiesta" following the team's win over the Baltimore Ravens in the 2011 AFC championship game, was everywhere during a period affectionately known as the "Summer of Gronk".

While Gronkowski has surely found time to unwind after the 2012 season, this year's version of the "Summer of Gronk" will likely be known more for the amount of time he's spent on operating tables.

Since last November, Gronkowski has undergone four surgeries to repair a left forearm that he broke twice during the 2012 regular and postseason. The latest of those procedures took place last week and Gronkowski will not have to wait long before he's back on the table.

According to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, Gronkowski will undergo back surgery in mid-June, which will keep the two-time Pro Bowler out for at least part of the Patriots' training camp.

Mike Garafolo of the USA Today reported on May 17 that Gronkowski had undergone an MRI on his back and was scheduled to meet with Dr. Robert Watkins, a Los Angeles-based back specialist, to determine if surgery was necessary to repair a disc issue that bothered Gronkowski during the 2012 season.

Back issues are nothing new to Gronkowski, who missed the 2009 season at the University of Arizona due to a disc issue that required surgery. That particularly back surgery prompted speculation — which was refuted by Gronkowski and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus — that Gronkowski had been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, which may have contributed to him falling out of the first round of the 2010 NFL draft.

According to Garafolo, the current disc that requires surgery is not the same one that was shaved down in 2009. The need for surgery does raise concerns about the availability of Gronkowski for the regular season-opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 8. While the hope is that Gronkowski can simultaneously rehabilitate the forearm and back surgeries and be on the field for Week 1, the Patriots may want to play it safe with Gronkowski, if for no other reason than to protect him from himself in terms of returning to action before his injuries have completely healed. The Patriots' last playoff game in each of the last two seasons — Super Bowl XLVI and the 2012 AFC championship game — serve as examples of how having Gronkowski on the field in January and February is far more important than having him in September.

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