The date for New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowki's fifth surgery in the last seven months has been set.
UPDATE: Tuesday, June 18, at 6:03 p.m. ET by Eric Ball
---End of update---
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski will undergo surgery on his injured back Tuesday in Los Angeles:
Though the surgery was first reported by NFL Network's Albert Breer in May, these are the first concrete details that have been provided about the procedure. Gronkowski has been dealing with back discomfort since the 2012 regular season, but an MRI last month noted that he needed surgery to prevent further damage to an injured disc.
The procedure will be performed by noted spinal specialist Robert Watkins, who Schefter noted did the procedure on New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul's back earlier this month.
In Schefter's report with colleague Mike Reiss, it's indicated that the long-term prognosis for Gronkowski is unclear. His status will ultimately depend on the extent of damage found, as there could be lingering scar tissue or other injuries that have not shown up in previous tests.
Members of the Patriots organization are concerned about whether their star tight end will return to full form in time for the regular season. Gronkowski will have 11 weeks of down time between his surgery and New England's opener in September.
Since November, Gronkowski has already undergone four operations on his left forearm, which he broke in a regular-season game against the Colts. The last procedure, performed in May, cleared a lingering infection in his arm and was expected to have him ready for training camp.
The prognosis is much more dire in this case. Ben Volin of The Boston Globe noted earlier this week that it's possible Gronkowski will miss half of the 2013 regular season.
Should that be the case, the Patriots' vaunted two-tight-end offense will be dealt a crushing blow. Despite hobbling through much of the campaign, Gronkowski was still arguably the most dominant tight end in the NFL when on the field. He made 55 receptions for 790 yards and 11 touchdowns while only appearing in 11 contests.
His absence was seen as an overarching reason New England lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Burgeoning star Aaron Hernandez will take over the top billing on the depth chart should Gronkowki's injury last into the regular season.
On a positive note, it's expected that Gronkowski's injury will not have any career-threatening effects.
There was some worry that his current back problem was related to the shaving of a disc in 2009, which caused him to miss his entire junior season at Arizona. Gronkowski, a third-round selection by New England in 2010, arguably fell in the draft because teams were worried about his long-term health.
Schefter's report notes that these two injuries are unrelated. And in his report, Volin spoke with Dr. Christopher Bono, who indicated that Gronkowski's impending surgery should have him back at 100 percent once he's fully recovered.
“It’s a very, very common procedure,” Dr. Bono said. “The chance of return to play is actually quite good, and there’s a 90-95 percent chance he’ll go back to playing at full capacity.”
While the long-term prognosis seems promising, the Patriots will be waiting with bated breath for the outcome Tuesday evening. Should Gronkowski's injury be more severe than initially thought, New England's 2013 season could already be facing its first massive challenge.
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