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Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski to have back surgery next month

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com

Rob Gronkowski has struggled with injuries throughout his career. (USATSI)
One step forward, two steps back. That seems to be how it works for Rob Gronkowski. Last week, the Patriots' big-play tight end had a plate put in his left forearm, and the lingering infection that was partly responsible for four previous surgeries was finally gone.

But Gronk was already dealing with chronic back pain that could eventually require surgery. Turns out, that surgery will take place in June, a source with knowledge of the situation tells CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.

NFL.com's Albert Breer adds that Gronkowski will "likely miss at least part of [training] camp."

Gronkowski is an integral part of the Patriots' offense, but Aaron Hernandez has emerged as one of the league's best pass-catching tight ends in recent seasons. There's also Jake Ballard, formerly of the Giants, whom the Pats claimed off waivers last June.

Athough Ballard continues to recover from a major knee injury suffered in Super Bowl XLVI, he has looked sharp in OTAs, according to ESPNBoston.com's Field Yates.

"I'm doing my best I can to be 100 percent, and I'm doing as much as I can, as much as they're allowing me to do out here," Ballard admitted. "When I'm out here, I feel like I'm putting in good work and getting better."

With Gronk likely sidelined until August, the Patriots' depth chart at tight end looks like this: Hernandez, Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells.

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