Rob Gronkowski is officially on the clock.
The longer the New England Patriots Pro Bowl tight end waited, the more likely he would miss the start of the 2013 regular season. That is why it was smart for Gronkowski to go under the knife now for a fourth surgery on his left arm.
Another procedure was essentially inevitable for Gronkowski. His arm was not healing properly, and he suffered an infection after his third surgery.
An already-rough offseason is about to get rougher for Gronkowski. Ten weeks of recovery await, and the “Summer of Gronk” will be spent mostly rehabbing his arm instead of his usual party adventures around the country.
Gronkowski can no longer afford room for error in his recovery. The post-surgery timeline takes him right into training camp. Another setback could result in Gronkowski missing preseason games or even a portion of the regular season.
New England is expected to rely even more on its tight ends this season since 2012 starting receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd are no longer on the roster. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady needs Gronkowski and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez more than ever. Hernandez also is recovering from major shoulder surgery and aims to be ready for training camp.
The Patriots must take the field in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills with or without Gronkowski. His decision to stop delaying surgery greatly increases his chances of being on the field in Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sept. 8.
New England’s title hopes the past two years were dashed, in large part, because Gronkowski could not stay healthy. He is a difference-maker New England cannot win a championship without.