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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski needs a fourth surgery on left forearm

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Rob Gronkowski may not be ready for the 2013 opener (Getty Images)

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will require a fourth surgical procedure on his left forearm, reports Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald.

Gronkowski initially underwent surgery after he broke his forearm while blocking on a fourth-quarter extra point attempt in a 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 18. Gronkowski broke the same forearm again during a divisional playoff win over the Houston Texans and had surgery in mid-January. A third procedure took place in February after Gronkowski developed an infection following the second surgery.

According to the report, a fourth procedure has always been on the agenda, but it has not been clear when that surgery would take place.

[Fantasy impact: Rethinking tight end ranks]

Doctors need to switch out the plate that is currently securing the bone in Gronkowski's forearm, but that procedure has been delayed as the Pro Bowl tight end underwent a round of antibiotic treatments to clear the infection. Once the infection has cleared and the plate has been swapped out, Gronkowski can begin what is estimated to be an 11-week recovery period.

The Patriots have not yet released their training camp dates, but we're currently about 12 weeks away from when NFL teams typically open camp. The longer the fourth surgery is delayed, the less likely it is that Gronkowski will be healthy enough to participate in training camp and the preseason. Considering Gronkowski's importance to the Patriots' offense, the team will probably take a cautious approach with his recovery to make sure he's ready for the regular season-opener against the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 8.

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