Surgery likely for Rob Gronkowski

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski "very likely" will require a fourth surgery on his left forearm, this one to remove the plate inserted in the arm in order to ensure an infection has been eradicated, two sources told ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss.

If another surgery is required, the estimate for a recovery would be about 10 weeks. Depending on when the surgery can be performed, which would be determined by whether the infection is completely eliminated, Gronkowski's availability for the start of the 2013 season could be affected.

While the infection is seen as a setback, there are options that include not removing the plate that could be considered, the sources said.

Gronkowski was in California visiting friends recently, and when he woke up in the morning, his arm was swollen and he noticed some discharge. After he called the Patriots, the club quickly arranged for his cross-country return to Boston to address the issue. The timeliness was crucial to avoid any more serious complications.

Gronkowski's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, was asked Sunday night if his client would miss the early part of the 2013 season.

"I can tell you that I'm gonna be talking to the team doctors, we're gonna talk to the experts and we're gonna see how it plays out," Rosenhaus told WSVN-7 in Miami. "Right now we've got plenty of time until the season starts, whether he needs another operation, what that operation will entail, that's very preliminary, that type of speculation is way off, no determinations have been made, there's no surgery scheduled and we’re not even sure if he's gonna need one."

Patriots spokesman Stacey James said Sunday the team doesn't expect to comment on the situation.

Gronkowski originally broke the arm Nov. 18 in a game against the Indianapolis Colts.

The Boston Herald reported Sunday that the surgery will be needed, citing multiple sources. According to the report, Gronkowski is nearing the end of a six-week cycle of antibiotic treatments at Massachusetts General Hospital but because doctors aren't sure the infection has been eliminated, they will need to remove the plate inserted in the forearm to check.

If doctors are certain the infection has been eradicated, according to the report, they will install a new one and Gronkowski should have enough time to be ready for the start of the 2013 season.

Gronkowski, speaking during a March 27 visit to ESPN, said he was upbeat and improving.

"I'm doing a lot better, definitely. Feeling a lot better," Gronkowski said on the "Mike & Mike in the Morning" radio show. "My arm is feeling way better than it was during the playoffs and regular season when I broke it.

"Right now, just rehabbing, getting the muscle stronger around it. You want to get everything activated, reactivated, because it shuts down for a little bit when it's healing. Just rehabbing, and when my trainers give me the 'good to go,' hopefully in the next couple weeks, hopefully as soon as possible ... I can get rolling again and get back in the weight room and get back on the field and do what I love doing -- running around and catching some balls."

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss was used in this report.