The New England Patriots‘ lack of depth at the wide receiver position seemed like a non-issue, given the presence of elite tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. But the health of the latter tight end may be in question for the start opening of the 2013 NFL season, potentially a major damper for the Patriots’ passing game. According to the Boston Herald, Gronkowski has to have the plate in his formerly broken left forearm removed to make certain the infection he sustained after a January surgery has subsided.
Removing the plate from his forearm puts his availability for the opening of the season in serious jeopardy. Doctors are not sure if the infection has been removed. If there is infected tissue, doctors would have to delay surgery to install the new plate until the infection is fully cleared.
If the infection no longer lingers, however, doctors can immediately put in a new plate and Gronkowski will easily have enough to heal in time for the start of the season in September.
The Patriots need the dominating force of Gronkowski in the lineup fully healthy, especially with Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd no longer part of the squad. Welker and Lloyd combined for 192 receptions, 2,265 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.
In order to fill the void of the departures of Welker and Lloyd, the Patriots have added Danny Amendola, Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins. However, all three come with potential baggage as Amendola is injury prone, the woeful Buffalo Bills quit on Jones after just three years and Jenkins is a shell of his former self at age 30. Therefore, the Patriots were hoping they could rely on Gronkowski to fortify their passing game.
Gronkowski’s absence from the lineup would significantly weaken their offense that features Hernandez and “Gronk” lined up on opposite sides of the ball in a two tight end package that helps spread the field.
With Tom Brady still manning the Patriots’ charge on offense, to go along with a steady running back core of Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden, New England should still hold one of the most effective offenses in the AFC. Still, the loss of Gronkowski for a short period of time would be a major hindrance for an offense that is trying to prove it can survive without Wes Welker in the lineup.