The good news for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is that doctors felt confident enough that the infection in his forearm had cleared that they could perform surgery on his back Tuesday.
But now he faces a lengthy rehab and a lot of uncertainty over when he can return to the football field.
Gronkowski, 24, had surgery to fix a herniated disk performed in Los Angeles by noted back surgeon Robert Watkins. The generally accepted rehab schedule from disk surgery is approximately 12 weeks, which would put him right up against the season opener Sept. 8. The Patriots may put Gronkowski on the physically unable to perform list at some point. If he is on PUP when the season begins, he must sit out six games. Full story for BostonGlobe.com subscribers.