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New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski is scheduled to be seen by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jesse Jupiter next week to determine if the staph infection that has been plaguing his surgically repaired forearm has healed. According to the Boston Globe, Gronkowski is wrapping up a course of antibiotics and will be re-examined afterwards to determine if the infection has sufficiently cleared. If the infection has cleared, Dr. Jupiter will replace the hardware and Gronk will officially begin the road to recovery.
According to reports, recovery is slated to last roughly 11 weeks, which puts Gronk on pace to return in early-to-mid August (assuming surgery is done at the end of next week), which would be during training camp and have him ready for the start of the season. Obviously, this is assuming that he suffers no setbacks and has a very smooth, clean recovery.
The main focus of Gronkowski’s rehabilitation is clearing the infection, first and foremost. Nothing can move forward until the hardware, surrounding bone, and soft tissue are all infection free, as the presence of infected tissue presents problems much more serious than football. However, assuming the infection is cleared, the next steps will be to resume restoring full, pain-free range of motion of the wrist/forearm/elbow in addition to strengthening those same joints to restore his previous level of function.
From a function standpoint, the forearm region is very important for a tight end, specifically with blocking and bracing his fall (which is how he re-injured the forearm the second time against the Ravens in the AFC Championship). Also, this likely means that Gronk won’t be doing too much more blocking on extra points/field goals, decreasing the likelihood of this occurring again.
With all the setbacks that have occurred over the last 7 months, Gronk remains in good position to be ready for the start of the season, but that’s the best case scenario because it assumes he won’t have anymore setbacks. In my eyes, more realistically and based on how cautious the team will be with their Pro Bowl tight end, I can see Gronk eased back into his full workload over the first 1-2 weeks and really hitting his stride by around week 3. Purely speculation, obviously, and although he still carries a big injury risk, it wouldn’t stop me from drafting him in the early 3rd round if he’s still sitting there for me.