A new report suggests that New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski could have returned from his multiple offseason surgeries much sooner if he’d allowed his arm to heal naturally rather than undergoing an operation.

The Patriots initially expected Gronkowski, 24, to return to the field as early as the team’s Week 3 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, concerns regarding the tight end’s surgically-repaired arm continue to keep him out of action, with doctors reportedly wary of the operation’s potentially harmful long-term effects.

Gronkowski initially broke his forearm last November during a game against the Indianapolis Colts, WEEI notes. Rather than allow the bone to heal naturally—a decision that would have cost him the rest of the 2012 season—Gronkowski opted to surgically install a plate in the injured arm in a bid to return in time for the playoffs.

The decision to rush back backfired; Gronkowski broke the same forearm in the Patriots’ playoff game against the Texas. Moreover, the surgically-installed plate led to an infection, which required three additional surgeries to fully “clean out,” Deadspin notes.

A source with knowledge of Gronkowski’s first arm surgery claims that the infection likely wouldn’t have developed if the bone had been allowed to heal naturally. Thus, Gronkowksi would have missed last season’s playoffs, but would have been able to return much sooner this season.

According to WEEI, the source claims that there is still “serious concern” regarding the stability of the injured bone and surrounded nerves. Doctors reportedly fear that an abscess may have formed in the forearm, leading to the infection and “likely weakening the bone.”

Concern over the effects of the infection is reportedly so strong that Gronkowski’s family advised the 24-year-old to sit out until his forearm is completely healed, regardless of whether or not he is cleared to play by Patriots team officials. To that end, Gronkowski will meet with ubiquitous orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews, who will determine if the Patriots star is fit to play this week.

Despite the concerns over his forearm, Gronkowski has been a limited participant in Patriots practice this week, WEEI reports. On Thursday, the 24-year-old told reporters that “nothing’s changed” regarding his status for this Sunday’s game, and that he plans to assess the situation day by day.