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Report: Infection jeopardizes Rob Gronkowski’s availability for start of the 2013 regular season

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

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has suffered a setback in his surgically-repaired left forearm that has placed his availability for the start of the 2013 regular season in jeopardy, Ron Borges and Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald report.

Gronkowski initially broke his forearm while blocking on an extra point during a 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11. The injury required surgery that kept the two-time Pro Bowler out for five games, but Gronkowsi would return for the regular season finale and the playoffs.

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While attempting to haul in a pass down the sideline in the first quarter of the divisional playoff game against the Houston Texans, Gronkowski landed on his forearm and suffered a break just above where a plate had been installed in the initial surgery. Gronkowski had surgery to repair that break, but developed an infection that required a third procedure in February.

According to the report, Gronkowski is at the end of a six-week cycle of antibiotics to treat the "stubborn" infection that developed around the second plate. Doctors have to remove that plate and install a new one, but that might be delayed by infected tissue. Between the additional time required to clear the infected tissue, and the installation and recovery time from having a new plate installed , Gronkowski might not be ready for the start of the 2013 regular season.

If the infection has cleared, however, a new plate can be installed and Gronkowski should be recovered in plenty of time to resume a promising career that has seen the 2010 second-round pick out of Arizona catch 187 passes for 2,663 yards and 38 touchdowns in 43 regular season games.

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Gronkowski went through the ESPN "car wash" recently and had positive reports on the status of his forearm.

"The arm is feeling way better than it was during the playoffs, and in the regular season when I broke it,” Gronk said on the “Mike and Mike” morning show (via the Boston Herald). “Right now, I’m rehabbing, getting the muscle stronger around it. You want to get everything activated, re-activated, because it shuts down for a little bit when it’s healing...When my trainers give me the good-to-go, hopefully in the next couple weeks, as soon as possible, I can get rolling again, doing what I love doing, catching some balls."

Between Aaron Hernandez, Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui, Daniel Fells (and Brad Herman), the Patriots have a deep stable of tight ends behind Gronkowski. However, none have the sort of impact in the passing game or red zone as the 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski, who in 2012 became just the third tight end in NFL history to have three seasons with 10 or more touchdown receptions. Gronkowski is also a dominant blocker in the running game and his absence at the start of the 2013 would be another blow to a Patriots offense that lost Wes Welker to free agency this offseason.

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