The Patriots would be fine without Gronk. This takes nothing away from the man who has been the prototype for the revolution the tight end position has underwent in recent years. His athleticism and game breaking ability from the position is unmatched in the NFL, and he will certainly be missed should his back surgery cause him to miss significant time. This column is simply a testament to the resilience of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots organization.
Rob Gronkowski underwent back surgery today. The All-Star Tight End has been the best player at his position for the past two seasons. Taking the football world by storm, and becoming a household name at a position the casual fan often wouldn’t be able to name on his team. His touchdown prowess earned him the prestige of becoming a first round draft pick in many fantasy leagues last season, a historic moment for the position.
The surgery, Gronk’s fifth of the past year, was performed by Dr. Robert Watkins today. The back operation was successful, and it now joins his long list of medical records, alongside the four surgeries to repair the broken forearm he suffered last season. Anonymous reports coming out of the operation, New England is uncanny with their ability to keep injury information secret, is that Gronk is expected to return to the field for the Patriots in August with an eye on a potential start in week one.
Despite the positive news surfacing in the aftermath of the operation for Gronkowski, one can not help but wonder if the Patriots will have to spend a significant part of this season without their star tight end.
New England has long been a team with the ability to simply put in the next player on the depth chart when a star gets hurt, yet still maintain a high level of production. This goes as far back as the injury Drew Bledsoe suffered that enabled Tom Brady to emerge as the team’s prolific starting quarterback.
All signs point to the New England Patriots preparing for Gronk to be anything but fine for week 1. The acquisition of Danny Amendola could be argued to have been purely to replace Wes Welker, and he fits that mold well. However, Amendola can also fill some of the void a safety net like Gronkowski brings to the offense with quick underneath routes.
Aaron Hernandez, Gronk’s backup, has the ability to fill in as an elite level tight end himself. He has shown flashes of dominance in his three years alongside Gronk, and the Patriots have no worries that he would perform just fine as a starter.
Further insurance has been added in unusual fashion recently as well. Tim Tebow was brought in as a free agent, officially as a quarterback. However it has long been rumored that the former Heisman Trophy winner would fare better in the NFL as a tight end. That may very well be what Belichick had up his sleeve when he brought in the pious passer.
The team has also brought in former Giant Jake Ballard this offseason, he is coming off a season ending ACL injury himself however and will have to prove he is fine before the Patriots would ask him to fill Gronk’s big shoes if he should miss time.
Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in football. He also has shown himself to be a bit injury prone, should he miss time as a result, Bill Belichick will be ready to adapt. Tebow and Ballard may not be Gronk, but the Patriots would be able to plug them into the lineup and be just fine this season without their star. Tom Brady spreads the ball around better than anyone else, and would continue to do so while making his team a contender this year. With or without Gronk the Patriots will be more than fine, they will make the playoffs.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express