- Stephania Bell, Fantasy Sports
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A preseason injury outlook for fantasy-noteworthy tight ends. This column will be updated throughout the summer:
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots: Gronkowski suffered a high ankle sprain in the AFC Championship Game, and his status heading into the Super Bowl was a big topic of conversation. The injury clearly hampered his mobility and physicality during that game, and we learned shortly after that he had undergone an arthroscopic procedure on the injured ankle.
After the February surgery, Gronkowski remained in a walking boot for weeks and described his status as day-to-day while sitting out Patriots organized team activities. But there have been observable improvements recently. Gronkowski was out of the boot and walking without a limp at minicamp time, reportedly working intently on his rehab (not to mention securing the biggest contract ever for a tight end). Clearly the Patriots have no doubts about his health, and all signs point to Gronkowski's being a participant at training camp.
Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers: Gates entered the 2011 season recovering from a torn plantar fascia (the fibrous tissue that supports the arch of the foot) and was still dealing with significant discomfort when the season began. Although he started the season on time, Gates was forced out for three weeks as the foot problem persisted. Even after he returned, Gates acknowledged he was working himself back into game shape as the season progressed.
This spring Gates has said he is feeling much better. He began working out with the team early, during voluntary drills, and has continued as a participant in OTAs. His extensive history of foot and ankle problems makes him a relative risk going forward in that there is always a possibility something will crop up. His talent, however, is so superior that it has outweighed any associated risk in the past. If anything, Gates enters this season in better shape than last after an offseason of resting his foot. He says he intends to be on the field more this season, and based on how he looks early, there's no reason not to believe him.
Tony Moeaki, Kansas City Chiefs: Moeaki was the first of three key Chiefs players (along with safety Eric Berry and RB Jamaal Charles) to go down in 2011 with a torn ACL. Moeaki's blow was particularly devastating, as he has battled the injury bug since his college days. This time it was a torn left ACL in the Chiefs' preseason finale that sidelined him before the regular season even got under way.
As of now, he has shown solid progress, and the expectation is that he will be cleared to participate fully in training camp activities. While players often require a season of play before returning to form following an ACL reconstruction, the fact that Moeaki has had 10 months of rehabilitation heading into camp is a plus. The lengthy rehab might also have helped his entire body benefit from a period of intensive conditioning, which could bode well for him in his efforts to stay healthy in 2012.