Patriots can no longer count on Gronkowski

April, 7, 2013
4/07/13
7:09
PM ET
Memo to tight end Aaron Hernandez: You are now the top receiving option for quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Memo to receiver Danny Amendola: It's time to finally stay healthy for 16 games and put up Wes Welker-type numbers.

Memo to tailback Stevan Ridley: There's no time to let up because the Patriots need another 1,200-yard rushing season to be successful.

All this is the case because New England can no longer count on Pro Bowl tight end Rob Gronkowski.

There was more bad news Sunday from Gronkowski's infamous offseason. Our colleague Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports it's "very likely" Gronkowski needs a fourth surgery on his broken left arm and could possibly miss the start of the regular season. The expected timeline will be approximately 10 weeks after the surgery.

Whether on the field or off, Gronkowski is becoming more of a liability than an asset for the Patriots. There have been more headlines in the past year about his multiple injuries and off-the-field adventures than touchdowns. Just recently Gronkowski was criticized for partying too hard in Las Vegas and wrestling with friends, while dangerously landing on his right arm. He already had a third procedure and reportedly needs a fourth.

New England's best move is to proceed without Gronkowski for the time being. Gronkowski may very well come back 100 percent at some point this year. But considering his recent history, the Patriots can no longer assume that will be the case.

Perhaps the Patriots should draft another tight end for insurance or do everything they can to make sure former New York Giants tight end Jake Ballard (knee) will be 100 percent and ready to fill a major role. Anything Gronkowski, a $53 million player, is able to contribute for the Patriots this year should be considered a bonus.

The shame is Gronkowski was on pace for a Hall of Fame career. He has all the physical tools -- height, hands, athleticism -- to become one of the best tight ends of the past 20 years. However, Gronkowski's poor luck with health and, at times, poor judgment off the field might be too much to overcome.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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