News & Info/Headlines

Gronkowski's Back Surgery Set; Week 1 Status Is Not
As's Mike Reiss notes, the news that tight end Rob Gronkowski will undergo back surgery on Tuesday in Los Angeles sets the timetable for his potential availability in the season opener.

A 12-week recovery from the back surgery was estimated, which if that's the way it unfolds, would put Gronkowski's return right around the opener. Or right after.

NBC/Rotowold's Evan Silva pointed out via Twitter last night that 84 days from Tuesday would have him back Sept 10. The Patriots open the regular season on Sept. 8 at Buffalo.

The bottom line is, Gronk will be cutting it very close even given the best-case scenario. And why should we expect that?

This will be Gronkowski's fifth surgery since November -- four on his forearm and this on his back.

Given that, Reiss notes that it makes sense to think the Patriots will take a long-range view and a conservative approach, so preparing for the early part of the season without Gronkowski, which in February wasn't a consideration, is now a possibility.

According to Reiss, it could come down to a decision on whether the Patriots want to place Gronkowski on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which would sideline him for at least the first six games of the regular season, but open a roster spot for another player. Or if the team thinks Gronkowski could return at some point within the first six games, they could put him on the active roster even if he's not ready for the opener.

At this point, it's too early to speculate which way it will go.

The next step is seeing what doctors find on Tuesday, and how Gronkowski responds to the surgery.

With both Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez (shoulder) not practicing in offseason camps, the Patriots have been working with Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui and rookies Zach Sudfeld and Brandon Ford at tight end.

According to Reiss, Hernandez has been making progress in his recovery from offseason shoulder surgery, and could be ready for the start of training camp. But with Gronkowski not expected to be ready for training camp, more attention will naturally be focused on Ballard (returning after missing 2012 following knee surgery), Fells, Hoomanawanui and Sudfeld in camp.

Still, from a fantasy perspective, Hernandez is looking increasingly good.

In fact, assuming he makes it into the season at something close to full speed, it's not a stretch to believe the fleet-footed, athletic Hernandez could open the season as the Patriots' de facto WR1.

Remember, successful receivers in New England are those who have earned Tom Brady's trust. At this point, Hernandez looks to be the most trusted -- at least until Danny Amendola demonstrates otherwise.

Either way, I'm convinced that a healthy Hernandez is primed to build on the 175 receptions, 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns he's racked up over the past three seasons.