It’s a lot of fun to be a fan of Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots tight end hangs out with porn stars. He was offered $3.5 million to star in an adult film. He takes the expression, “No shirt, no shoes, no problem,” to a whole new level. He may as well be an honorary member of the WWE. And, Mr. “Yo soy fiesta” can certainly dance.
There’s a reason Pats teammate Logan Mankins once said he’s a “big meathead who loves to party and play football.”
Best of all, while team owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick can’t possibly enjoy all the public exploits, the man affectionately known as “Gronk” isn’t breaking the law or hurting anybody. He’s just having fun.
The problem is Gronkowski’s also not doing himself any favors.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound, Herculean-looking receiver turned 24 years old just a few days ago and, today, he’s set to undergo his fourth surgery on a broken left forearm. As we know, he originally suffered the freak injury on Nov. 18, 2012 vs. the Colts during a meaningless extra point play that he’d been part of maybe three million times before, and then he re-broke the forearm on Jan. 13 in the Patriots’ first playoff game against the Texans. For six weeks, there have been rumblings this surgery was coming and now it’s here. If all goes well and there’s no reemergence of the infection that’s slowed his recovery, Gronkowski should only miss about 10 weeks.
Then, of course, there was Friday’s wrinkle: Gronkowski may need minor back surgery as well for a disk issue related to an injury from last season. Fortunately, it’s said to be unrelated to the spine ailment he suffered at Arizona that cost him his junior campaign and dropped him to the second round and into New England’s happy little lap.
According to reports, whether it’s the forearm surgery or the possible addition of a back procedure, Gronkowski shouldn’t miss any of the 2013 regular season, though he would likely begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
Let’s be clear. There’s absolutely no quantifiable reason to believe Gronkowski’s carefree lifestyle has anything to do with his durability or lack thereof in recent months, and the guy’s certainly had his share of bad luck.
However, when he’s dancing his butt off on an injured ankle immediately following Super Bowl XLVI after the injury rendered him … let’s just say less than stellar… in his team’s loss, that’s poor judgment.
When, one year later – and only a few short months ago – he’s shirtless at a Las Vegas night club, wearing a cast on his forearm, and impressively executing a wrestling move that involves him landing on his back, that’s poor judgment.
This isn’t a post to vilify Gronkowski for issues that have already been harped on time and time again on TV, radio and in print, so I’ll stop there. Still, public perception allows for people to think whatever they’d like.
Gronkowski has said there’s no reason for fans or anyone else to be concerned he’s not taking care of his body at home or in the weight room and, look at the guy, who could doubt that? As he’s acknowledged, he only knows one speed and that’s full speed.
All that said, I’m absolutely worried about Gronkowski and the Patriots should be too. He was as durable as athletes come his first two years on the field until that injury in the 2011 playoffs. Then, in 2012, he appeared in just 11 games with the repeat forearm breaks and missed the postseason. He had a serious back injury in college, and there’s at least a blip on that radar again. When it comes to Gronk, doctors are getting really good at the game Operation.
You’d hope these aren’t the kind of injures that linger once corrected but, before he’s 100 percent, his conditioning will certainly take a hit and that should extend the timetable for when he’s deemed ready.
Now here’s where I probably differ from the Patriots: I could not care less whether Gronkowski’s on the field for the regular season opener.
I realize Wes Welker’s gone, Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman are both banged up, and there are a bunch of new faces who don’t know the system or have their own medically-checkered pasts, but the In Bill We Trust-er in me thinks the Pats are a playoff team with or without big Rob so long as Belichick’s on the sidelines and Tom Brady’s taking the snaps. Plus, the AFC East will continue to be a punching bag. Come the postseason, however, the team’s success – at least offensively – may very well rely on Gronkowski.
I’m not saying SIT THE GUY. That’s crazy. In three regular seasons and two playoff runs, Gronkowski’s totaled 208 receptions, 2,986 yards and 41 touchdowns over 47 games, and he fumbles about as frequently as you’d think he passes on a free drink. There’s a reason the two-time Pro Bowler and All-Pro is the NFL’s highest-paid tight end ever with a six-year, $54 million extension, a contract given, by the way, by a team not exactly known for shelling out the huge deals.
What I am saying is there’s no need to rush him back. Pull a reverse Derrick Rose, if you will. The Chicago Bulls wanted him back for the playoffs and he has refused to play until he’s 110 percent – a travesty to discuss another day. Undoubtedly, Gronkowski wants to be on that field this very second, and I admire him for it, but I wouldn’t be disappointed if he isn’t until he’s 110 percent in the clear, to the extent that any of us really can be.
If another injury happens when he returns or thereafter, so be it, football’s a physical game and he plays it as tough as anyone. Gronkowski wouldn’t be the first great athlete to have what could be a Canton-bound career tragically derailed by being injury prone. But, at 24, that fact doesn’t even matter now. He might play another dozen years – unlikely as that is – and I hope he does because, man alive, he’s fun to watch.
The short-term, though, is a concern. The Pats inevitably know that and Gronk should maybe be a little more careful in his free time, just in case.
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About this blog
Adam Kaufman is a writer and broadcaster who can also be heard regularly on 98.5 The Sports Hub, WBZ NewsRadio 1030, the national CBS Sports Radio Network, and broadcasting Boston College hockey games. The Massachusetts native is a Syracuse grad and a pop culture fanatic who offers a unique and entertaining look at your favorite Boston sports teams. Please don't hold his love for Jean-Claude Van Damme movies against him.
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