New England Patriots on Paper – updating the “Summer of Gronk” debacle


It seems that we are about to get some closure on the nightmare-ish sequel to the Summer of Gronk…

…an offseason that has seen Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski vilified by journalist and fan alike for the seeming disregard for his own health – and there is something to it, as Gronkowski’s antics have reminded old-school types of the old NFL, where the players worked hard and partied harder.

October 21, 2012; Foxboro, MA USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) prior to a game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Gronkowski is a throwback, though it is his apparent naivete to blame for his cavalier behavior rather than any sort drunken irresponsibility or ill will.  His want and desire is to play football and, when healthy, he is the prototype – the standard by which all NFL Tight Ends are compared.

Regardless, he has become a whipping boy for the media, and some portend to link the news of his impending back surgery to said disregard for his own health, when in reality it is just some minor preventative maintenance that popped up in the media when the Patriots decided to seize the opportunity to cut a potential problem off at the pass.

It’s widely known as the “And While We’re At It” syndrome, a common thread among divorce lawyers, football coaches and, apparently, top-shelf orthopedic spine surgeons…

…Dr. Robert Watkins has been commissioned to perform the surgery, which will occur sometime in mid-June at the very nice sounding Marina Del Rey Hospital in Los Angeles – a time frame that will theoretically place the recovery both from his recent forearm surgery and the impending back procedure at similar points in mid-August, which might have Gronkowski starting the season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list.

The author of many papers and a couple of books on the subject of spine surgery, Dr. Watkins is a “renowned expert in orthopaedic injuries to the back and neck.”, according to his profile on the website for Watkins Spine – for which he is the namesake – and is known for what he terms as “minimally invasive” surgery, for which it is described as the  performance of spine surgery through an approach that causes as little  destruction to surrounding tissues as possible…

…which is all medical gobbledygook for getting “scoped”, doing a little housekeeping in Gronk’s spine…

Smack in the middle of the pre-season schedule is no time to be coming off the skids and conditioning will be a real issue, so a common theme among the experts is a debate over whether the Patriots try to integrate Gronkowski into action as soon as possible, or give him a PUP list designation to ensure that he’s 100% and is in football shape.

If designated to the PUP, Gronkowski would have the first six weeks of the season to get in shape before he is eligible to return to the active roster and would appear the more prudent choice.

But why the delay?  If they knew he needed the procedure, why wait until now?

Simply, he could have done without the surgery at this point and they probably wouldn’t be doing the back procedure at all if the multiple forearm surgeries hadn’t set him back – but since they did, and the timing seemed about right, the decision was made.

” ‘we’re killing two birds with one stone’ by getting the back surgery when he’s out and recovering with his arm, because he really can’t do much right now anyway.” said his agent Drew Rosenhaus on a radio interview Thursday morning.

According to league sources, the purpose for waiting on back surgery for the two-time All Pro was to ensure that the infection that had plagued Gronkowski in his broken forearm had been eradicated, thereby providing a solid recovery timetable – and when that timetable had been established with some certainty, the stars aligned and a go-ahead was issued.

“This is a lingering problem that Rob’s been playing with, actually through all of last season” Rosenhaus explained, “And now that he’s out with the arm for a set period of time, it’s something that he eventually would have to do, and the recovery will be very comparable to the amount of time he would have missed with the arm surgery, so why not get it done now and make sure when he is healthy he’s 100 percent and he doesn’t have to address the back down the road.”

Indeed!  Let’s cut into Gronk’s spine!

The Patriots’ seized the opportunity to have a procedure done to reduce the odds for having to deal with it in the future, since he was going to be on the mend anyway.  But what does all of this mean -for not just Gronkowski, but for the very offensive philosophy of the Patriots?

Tomorrow: Part 2 – Juggernaut derailed, or just rescheduled?