New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who hasn't played since the team's playoff win over the Houston Texans on Jan. 13, has not yet been cleared to play following several surgeries on his left forearm. One team source told ESPN's Ed Werder that Gronkowski has created questions about his ability and availability on Sundays by going all-out in practice.
"There's curiosity and resentment, and he's creating it by going out and kicking ass during the week and then he doesn't show up on game day and help the team win," the source told Werder.
The team has maintained that it will be cautious regarding Gronkowski's timeline. He has had four surgeries on his forearm since last season -- one during the 2012 regular season, another after the Texans game and two more this offseason as an infection complicated the recovery process. Gronkowski also had surgery in June to repair a herniated disc in his back, but as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe reported this week, it's the forearm, not the back, that has kept Gronkowski out of action.
Per Boston radio station WEEI, Gronkowski and the people close to him have "serious concerns" about the way the initial forearm surgery was handled by Patriots team physician Thomas Gill. When Gronkowski suffered the broken bone in his forearm against the Indianapolis Colts, the mutual decision was made to implant a metal plate in his arm to speed the healing process. However, Gronkowski's camp now believes that the subsequent infection could have been avoided if he had been allowed to heal at the normal rate.
The Patriots have cleared Gronkowski to return to the active roster. But the independent team of Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Jesse Jupiter have not signed off, and until they do, it appears that Gronkowski will not play.
Some Patriots players, according to Werder, wonder why he is able to take 50 or more reps in practice every day with the scout team, doing everything a normal healthy player would do in practice, if he's truly unable to play.
"Whatever is holding him back now isn't going to be healed in two weeks, because there's nothing wrong with the arm," one source told Werder.
Team owner Robert Kraft, however, told ESPN Radio New York this week that there is no such schism in the front office.
"He's a young man that has had a number of different operations and I just want to make clear, cause I know the media has a job to do," Kraft said. "Our first concern is his health and safety and doing what's in his best interest long-term. And he's the only one who can decide when he's ready to play and we're completely behind whatever his decision is."
Gronkowski was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft out of Arizona. He caught 187 passes for 2,663 yards and 38 touchdowns in his first three seasons, including a league-leading 17 in 2011. The Patriots signed him to a six-year, $53 million extension in June of 2012, the richest contract ever given to a tight end.