Gronkowski broke his left forearm in a November, 2012 game against the Indianapolis Colts. Although he returned to in time for last year's regular season finale, he re-injured the arm in the playoffs against the Houston Texans, and hasn't played since.
The injury may have been able to heal on its own, but New England team doctor Tom Gill performed surgery and installed plates in the hopes it would help strengthen and support the broken bone.
Unfortunately, Gronkowski had to undergo multiple follow-up surgeries because of infections that subsequently developed around the site of the plates.
WEEI's Mike Petraglia is reporting the Patriots expected Gronkowski to have been able to return much earlier, and currently have "serious concerns" about the long-term health of his arm. The infections have possibly weakened the bone, which is why the 24-year-old has been taken along so slowly, and the team won't clear him to play until noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews signs off.
This latest news contrasts an earlier report by the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe suggesting the Patriots and Gronkowski were at odds over his ability to play. The team allegedly thought he should have been back on the field quicker, while the player and his family thought taking a more cautious route was appropriate.
It now appears the concern may have been mutual all along.
A former second-round draft pick, Gronkowski has made two Pro Bowls in his first three seasons. With career totals of 187 catches for 2,663 yards and 38 touchdowns, he is considered one of the best tight ends in the game.
Since returning to practice at the beginning of the season, Gronkowski has been very vague about his game status. When recently asked about whether he would play in Week 6 against the New Orleans Saints, CSNNE.com reported he continued to be evasive. "Basically nothing new," he told reporters. "Just working hard every week, working hard out at practice. Nothing's changed. We're day by day, like we've been from the very beginning."
The Patriots have gone 4-1 to start the season, but have done so with an inconsistent offense. They are averaging 19 points a game, which represents their lowest per-game average since 2000, when they finished the season 5-11.
Gronkowski won't be allowed to play until it is determined his arm is completely healed. That could come as soon as the game against the Saints, or it could be determined there is a need to continue to wait.
The Patriots would obviously love to have their star back on the field but aren't going to endanger his long-term health and availability. While it can be difficult to wait, hopefully the patience showed in this matter will pay off in the end.In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.
You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.
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