Update on Rob Gronkowski

Gronkowski's arm infection may have cleared, but he now faces back surgery.

Rob Gronkowski had the plate in his fractured forearm replaced yesterday. That's a strong indication that his surgical team believed his infection has resolved and he can be cleared to resume his rehabilitation in time to be ready for the start of the regular season.

It is still possible that tissue samples taken during surgery will show evidence of infection. Cultures and other testing can take 48 hours or more before being considered definitively negative. But I strongly doubt Gronkowski's surgical team would implant new hardware in an area that they weren't confident was free of infection and risk another setback.

The news this week on Gronkowski isn't entirely positive, however. There are reports that he may need surgery to treat lingering symptoms in his back. Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald reported yesterday that spine surgeons will decide in the next month whether a disc fragment in Gronkowski's back will need to be removed.

If that report is accurate, this latest condition is probably not related to the injury that cost Gronkowski a full year of college or evidence that long-time rumors of a significant spinal stenosis condition are true. Guregian's description sounds most like a microdiscectomy, a relatively non-invasive procedure which would only require a 1-2 month rehab period.

Though the spine surgeons are waiting a month to decide whether the procedure will be necessary, most sources believe it's likely that Gronkowski will need the back surgery. It's possible that part of the delay is to ensure that no lingering infection will be found in his arm.

Despite the positive news, don't take today's outcome as a 100% all-clear for Gronkowski yet. His chances of being ready for opening weekend are much better than they were last week. However, we still don't know with certainty that Gronkowski's infection has cleared, nor is it assured that his back surgery will be minor. We will know more on both situations by the end of June.