As reported Sunday, Rob Gronkowski continues to be in a holding pattern, as doctors hope the tight end’s recently completed six-week course of antibiotic treatment finally stomps out a lingering infection in his left forearm.

According to a source familiar with the case, Gronkowski is going to need a fourth operation to change the plate that’s securing the broken bone in the forearm.

While there has been some suggestion recently that this step might be avoided, the source indicated the fourth operation still has to happen. The plate has to be switched, no matter what, and the surrounding tissue tested. The real question is if Gronkowski, who has been taking part in the team’s offseason program, will need a fifth operation.

If tests show the infection has been completely flushed out, the plate will be replaced, and the recovery process begins. If there are still signs of infection, that won’t happen.

That’s a scenario no one wants to contemplate. Ultimately, Gronkowski would need more surgery and his participation for the start of the season and perhaps beyond would be in jeopardy.

But right now, doctors are giving it a little more time in hopes that when they do decide to go in to replace the plate, which should be relatively soon given the 11-week recovery period, the infection will finally be gone.