Rob Gronkowski already damaged goods?

May, 17, 2013
5/17/13
4:40
PM ET
Rob Gronkowski is an elite tight end for the New England Patriots. He’s a big target who gets open, has strong hands and blocks well.

But it’s also fair to officially tag Gronkowski with the “injury-prone” label. The latest news comes from USA Today and ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, who both report that Gronkowski could be headed for back surgery. It would be performed in the same time frame as Gronkowski's upcoming fourth arm surgery, which will sideline him for approximately 10 weeks.

Gronkowski's back issue is not considered serious. But the overriding theme is that Gronkowski, 24, is already becoming damaged goods. He entered the NFL with back problems, which is why New England was able to draft him in the second round. Gronkowski also had major ankle surgery in 2012 and three operations (soon to be four) on his broken left arm. New England's physical marvel is starting to look like a crash-test dummy just three seasons into his career.

I've written numerous times that Gronkowski has the ability to be a Hall of Famer if he stays healthy. But the past two years have shown that that will be difficult. Gronkowski plays with reckless abandon, and it will be tough to change his playing style. At the same time, his body isn’t holding up to the physical pounding.

If Gronkowski does have back surgery next week, in addition to fixing his arm, it will be his sixth time going under the knife since early 2012. At some point, all of these injuries and subsequent surgeries will catch up to Gronkowski.

It may not be noticeable now in Years 1-4, but Gronkowski doesn’t appear to be the type of player the Patriots can expect to stay healthy and perform at a high level for a decade or more.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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