Rob Gronkowski will likely have his 4th forearm surgery since originally breaking the arm November 18th in a game vs. the Colts, and then re-breaking it early in the Patriot's playoff victory over the Texans.
According to the previously linked article, written by Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald, as of right now, the infection that has plagued the arm fracture has appeared to have subsided:
To this point, according to the source, there have been no signs of the pesky infection that's plagued Gronkowski's recovery process in blood exams taken. But doctors won't know for sure if the infection has truly been cleared until they go in and get surgical cultures, which will be tested during the surgery.
The status of this infection will be the primary determinant on whether or not Gronk will need to have a 5th surgery following next week's, which would likely cause him to miss the beginning of the regular season and perhaps beyond. If the infection is clear, he will have the current plate in his arm removed and replaced, putting him on pace to be fully recovered in time for the start of training camp.
With the departure of Wes Welker, Gronkowski's importance to the Patriot's offensive attack has increased, and the outcome of this surgery will certainly have a significant impact on the team's roster and offensive strategy going into the 2013 regular season. Overarching concerns loom about Gronk's long history of injuries, beginning in college when he was sidelined with recurring back issues. Since then he has suffered a broken ankle at the hands of Patriot's killer Bernard Pollard, and now an arm that just won't seem to heal.
Questions have been raised as to whether or not he is a player whose career will be characterized by premier talent hampered by constant injury. Some of also raised the question of whether his best seasons are behind him. I believe when healthy he is still by far the greatest tight end in the NFL, and has a definite chance to become the greatest to ever play the positon. But four, and possibly five, surgeries on a forearm in just over six months is not a very comforting fact for Patriot's fans to absorb.