The Patriots made a giant investment in star tight end Rob Gronkowski, but did the team jump the gun just a year of two earlier than they should have?
When the New England Patriots selected Rob Gronkowski out of the University of Arizona in the second round of the 2010 draft, nobody expected him to have the impact on the Patriots offense that he has had. Through three NFL seasons, Gronkowski has compiled 187 receptions for 2,663 yards an 38 touchdowns
. Those are some historic numbers for the 24 year old tight end. However, it seems like nobody is talking about the numbers that Gronkowski has been able to put up. These days, the only thing people can talk about are the injuries that Gronk has suffered. On November 18th, 2012 Gronkowski broke his forearm while playing in an extra point formation against the Indianapolis Colts. Gronk was forced to have surgery to repair the break, and he missed the next five games. He returned for the regular season finale against the Miami Dolphins on December 30th. It seemed like Gronk would be ready to go in the playoffs, and hopefully help New England get back to the Super Bowl. However, in the first quarter of the Divisional Round Playoffs, Gronkowski re-broke his left forearm. Gronkowski was out for the remainder of the playoffs, and was forced to have a second surgery on the forearm to fix the new break. It was expected that Gronkowski would have more than enough time to recover and be ready for training camp. Well, in late February, Gronk had his third surgery on his left forearm to clear up an infection. Just three months later in May, it was reported that Gronkowski would need a fourth operation to check if the infection was still present in the tissue surrounding the plate surgeons initially put in to fix the break in his forearm. Four operations later, the news is getting worse for Gronk. Doctors discovered a disc on Gronkowski's back, and a surgery has been scheduled to take care of it. For those who remember, Gronkowski missed his entire junior season in 2009 back at Arizona because of a back injury. The two injuries are said to be different. Gronk's agent Drew Rosenhaus described the surgery as minor, and "preventative-maintenance." Gronkowksi was given a 10 week healing period for his arm, and if this back surgery is as minor as Rosenhaus says, that should put Gronk on pace to begin training camp with his teammates. This has been a hellacious seven months for Gronkowski, and the Patriots should be concerned. New England awarded Gronkowski a six year, $54 million
extension back in 2012 that will run through the 2019 season. So the big question remains did the Patriots make the right decision? When healthy, Gronkowski is arguably the most dynamic player on offense outside of Tom Brady. His 38 touchdowns over the last three seasons are the most by any player over that time period. The problem is keeping Gronkowski healthy. In the last four years, Gronkowksi has had a back surgery, an ankle surgery, four arm surgeries, and another back surgery. I'm not that great at math, but that adds up to seven surgeries. The Patriots have demonstrated that their offense is nowhere the same when Gronkowski is hurt, and the two biggest examples have come in the biggest games. In the 2012 AFC Championship game, Bernard Pollard of the Baltimore Ravens went low to tackle Gronk, and the play resulted in a high ankle sprain for the tight end. Gronkowski was hobbled in the Super Bowl, and was a non factor in a 21-17 defeat to the New York Giants. After Gronkowski rebroke his forearm against the Houston Texans this past year in the playoffs, he missed the AFC Championship game in which the Patriots only mustered up 14 points in a loss. In the two biggest games with an injured Gronk, the Patriots have come up shorter than short. I'm not saying signing Rob Gronkowski to a contract extension was a bad idea. Locking up a premier tight end in his prime was huge for New England. However, I think they jumped the gun just a little bit by giving it to him just four months after we saw him limp off the field in Indianapolis with the high ankle sprain. Five months after signing the extension, the forearm problems began. I think I speak for everyone in Patriots Nation when I say I hope Rob Gronkowski returns to the field healthy, and has a dominant season for the Patriots. But at the moment, Gronk's immediate future is very blurry.