The injury bug continues to hit tight ends hard this off-season, with news breaking yesterday morning that Aaron Hernandez had off-season shoulder surgery. Much of the talk this off-season for the New England Patriots has centered on tight end Rob Gronkowski and his potential unavailability for the start of the 2013 season as he may have to remove the plate from his formerly broken left forearm.
It is uncertain when Hernandez suffered his injury, but what is clear is that he will miss OTAs and the team’s minicamp. Hernandez is, however, expected to be fully healthy for the start of training camp in July. Still, the injury to Hernandez has to put some apprehension into the mind of the Patriots’ management. The team anticipated relying heavily on Hernandez and Gronkowski for next year, especially with the departure of Wes Welker, and now both have had injury despairs this off-season.
The Patriots have immense salary space invested in Hernandez and Gronkowski, who both need to thrive in the offense if it has any chance of remaining the dominant force it has been in recent years. Hernandez signed a hefty extension last summer that will keep him a member of the Patriots through the 2018 season, paying him a maximum value of $40 million. Gronkowski also signed a luxurious extension last off-season that will keep on the roster through 2019, paying him a maximum value of $55 million.
The vast amount of money dished out to Hernandez and Gronkowski will be money poorly spent if the two tight ends cannot stay healthy. The two were unable to spend much time on the field together last season as Hernandez was bothered by an ankle injury suffered in the beginning of the year that caused him to miss five games while Gronkowski’s broken forearm forced him to sit for five weeks late in the season in 2012. The two are significantly more effective when both are on the field so staying healthy is crucial.
The Patriots are fortunate to have two of the best tight ends in the NFL on their roster for years to come, but their health issues have to worry the Patriots’ management moving forward. The team is loaded at the position, though, with Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells and Michael Hoomanawanui all signed for next season. Still, Hernandez and Gronkowski must stay healthy long-term if the Patriots’ offense wants to continue to wreak havoc on the rest of the league.
Tyler Ash is a New England Patriots Writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on twitter @TyAsh34 Like His Facebook Page, or add him to your network on Google Plus … He writes NBA articles and MLB articles for Rant Sports as well.