After an offseason that included his third and fourth forearm surgeries and back surgery, superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski is returning to game action for the New England Patriots, the team announced.
In February, Gronk underwent the third forearm surgery of his career in an attempt to clear an infection. In May, he went under the knife again, this time to install new plates to hold together the fracture in his arm.
To top it all off, he had back surgery in June.
While the fourth-year tight end managed to avoid the regular season PUP list, he still missed New England's first six games. The Boston Herald's Jeff Howe reported in late September the Patriots were ready for him to return as early as Week 2, but Gronk's camp was still uneasy.
With the wins rolling in, however, there was little reason for the 24-year-old to rush back to gridiron.
Still, even with the team success the 5-1 Patriots have sustained in the first half of the season without Gronk, you can bet Tom Brady will welcome the goofy, lovable giant with open arms.
With Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Aaron Hernandez all gone from last year's depth chart, while slot dynamo Danny Amendola has been unable to stay on the field due to a groin injury and most recently a concussion, the legendary quarterback has been forced to work with Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, easily the most unproven group of his career.
Edelman has filled Amendola's spot nicely as a reliable chain-mover, and Thompkins and Dobson have improved immensely over the weeks, but Gronkowski will immediately become option No. 1 (or 1-A if Amendola is healthy) in this passing offense.
Through three NFL seasons, he has established himself as a reliable threat between the 20s, pulling in 187 receptions for 2,663 yards (61.9 per game), but his 6'6", 265-pound frame makes him an absolute terror when the Patriots enter the red zone.
He caught 10 touchdowns his rookie season, a league-high 17 in 2011 and 11 in just 11 games last year, giving him a ludicrous 38 in 43 career games.
Gronk may receive a lot of attention for his antics and behavior off the field, but there is little question he is one of the most difficult tight ends in the league to defend.
His return will give a massive boost to the Patriots' offensive attack.