The Rob Gronkowski Injury Scandal

by Bryan Knowles

Gronkowski - Brady Celebrate

Gronkowski - Brady Celebrate

For the last four weeks, Patriots fans and fantasy football fanatics (not to mention NFL fans betting on Patriot's games) have tried to parse the tea leaves of Rob Gronkowski’s injury.

For the last four weeks, they’ve come up empty-handed.

For the sixth straight week, Rob Gronkowski was listed inactive for the game against the Saints. It’s essentially Gronkowski and his outside physicians keeping him out, with the tight end trusting his outside doctors as opposed to the Patriots' medical staff. He has not yet received medical clearance from surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Even though Andrews did not perform the surgery he is recognized as a leader in his field. Gronkowski also has not been cleared by Dr. Jesse Jupiter, the surgeon who did perform the surgery. The Patriots, on the other hand, have cleared him to play. Slowly but surely, the question has arisen: when on Earth are we going to see Gronkowski back in the lineup?

After all, reports from the beginning of the season had Gronkowski possibly even back as early as Week 3 versus Tampa Bay. It’s not the herniated disk keeping him out, it’s the left forearm; the one he’s had four operations on in the last year alone, the one they tried to fix last year by placing an implement in order to rush him back to action.

Now there are “serious concerns” about the integrity of that forearm – had it healed naturally, a source told Boston radio station WEEI, he might have avoided the infection that has kept him out almost half the season.

If the potential abscess that developed around the bone has significantly – and possibly permanently – damaged the integrity of both the bone and the surrounding nerves, we may never see Gronkowski play quite up to his previous level again. When you start listing all of the surgeries, injuries, and setbacks Gronkowski has suffered over the course of his career, both pro and college, you have to start wondering if one day we’ll be talking about Gronk the same way we talk about Bo Jackson – a stud who was lost to injuries in his prime.

Obviously, we’re a far distance away from that point yet – Gronkowski could easily suit up this week, and he absolutely shouldn’t rush back into action before he and his doctors are convinced he’s fully healed; rushing back early after the initial forearm break is likely what caused this infection and delay to occur in the first place.

"It's basically nothing new," Gronkowski said Thursday on "I mean, I'm just working hard every week, working hard out at practice, and nothing's changed, we're day by day, like we've been from the very beginning."

It is nothing new – there were reports on September 29th of him participating in practice, including contact and getting tackled. He was 50-50 to play in week 3. He had definitely made progress by Week 4. He was listed as questionable last week – and this week, too. It’s a Groundhog Day scenario for Patriots fans, who wake up to the same story day after day after day, and now have to ask why Gronkowski wasn’t put on the PUP list to start the season – it would have given the Patriots an extra roster spot to work with during the first six weeks, and prevent Gronkowski from taking the reps that could go to the younger, less experienced receivers, who have struggled so far this year. We haven’t heard about any setbacks in Gronkowski’s recovery, just a Zeno’s Paradox of him getting better bit by bit, and never reaching the destination.

With rumors, first reported by Tom Curran on PFT Live, that Gronkowski’s teammates are beginning to reach their tolerance levels for this frustration, and with the powerful Saints coming in to play, the Patriots need an answer on Gronkowski now. Not next week, not at their bye in three weeks – they need certainty, and they need it quickly. That may be impossible with a healing injury like this one, but with the Patriots struggling to get any offensive flow going early on this season, this constant game of wait and see is taking its toll.

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