As expected, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will undergo his fifth surgery since the 2012 season, as he will undergo back surgery in mid-June to alleviate an ailment that plagued him throughout last year.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Gronkowski is not expected to be ready for the start of training camp. Beyond that, there isn't a known time table for his return. And because of that, there's going to be a lot of speculation in the coming weeks.
With just under 100 days until the regular season, will Gronkowski be ready to go? Or perhaps a stint on the physically unable to perform list will be the way he begins his year?
Either way, the depth of the Patriots tight end corps will be one of the greatest areas of focus from now through the preseason. The Patriots have fellow 4th year player Aaron Hernandez, who is a versatile piece who doesn't often line up as an in-line tight end.
After Hernandez, the Patriots have veterans Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui, and Daniel Fells. All three figure to compete for playing time in training camp. The 2012 waiver claim of Ballard now looks even smarter. While there would be a significant drop off from Gronkowski to Ballard, there's no question that having a big, physical, and capable backup in Ballard is a luxury that few teams have.
We'll have more details on Gronkowski's recovery timeline as they become available.