Rob Gronkowski injury: Patriots unsure how bad TE's back is

Jared Wickerham

Rob Gronkowski's forearm looks like it will be fine after four surgeries, but now the Patriots are worried about his nagging back.

The struggles for New England tight end Rob Gronkowski continue: although his fourth surgery on his once-broken, eventually infected left forearm appears to have gone well, the Pats' medical staff is now turning their attention to his back, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.

Gronkowski has experienced chronic pain in the back for about a year, dating back to before he injured his arm. He intends to see an expert in about a month to check it out. It seems the team isn't sure what to expect:

When I asked owner Robert Kraft about it this week, his response was, "I wish I knew as much as you'd like me to know." It seems that nobody really knows. Medical opinions haven't been formed. Kraft later told reporters that Gronkowski "still should be great. We'll see."

Rapoport suggests the Patriots take their time with the fourth-year tight end, who needs to heal his forearm for two months after the surgery regardless of the issues with his back. His long-term health is important to the the Patriots, having locked him up to a 6-year, $53 million dollar contract that extends through 2018. And they've already rushed him back from an injury once too quickly -- after breaking his forearm in Week 11 of the regular season, Gronkowski somehow managed to get back into form for the final week of the regular season, only to reinjure his arm in the team's first playoff game.

Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez make a versatile, dynamic tight end combination that was brilliant for Tom Brady when both were healthy in 2011. And the team doubled down by extending both to huge contracts while allowing Wes Welker to take a big deal with the Denver Broncos. Gronkowski's road to health has been a long and twisty one, but it's an important one for the Pats to remain elite offensively.

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