A ruptured disc in Rob Gronkowski’s back could mean the season is over for the New England Patriots tight end, who will have surgery tomorrow to repair the injury, according to a statement released by the Patriots and the Gronkowski family.
“We do not expect that he will be able to play for the remainder of the 2016 season, but will await the results of tomorrow’s surgery before making a final determination,” the statement read.
The injury is expected to keep Gronkowski out for eight weeks, according to Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, which does put the tight end in jeopardy of missing the remainder of the season.
Gronkowksi, 27, has suffered from back problems in the past and missed the entire 2009 season due to back surgery when he was a junior with the Arizona Wildcats. He elected to enter the 2010 NFL draft anyway, where he was selected by the Patriots in the second round.
He missed time during the 2013 season due to another back surgery, making his latest surgery the third time he has undergone repairs to discs in his back.
The tight end started the season by missing the first two weeks due to a hamstring injury, but returned in Week 3. In a four-week span in October, Gronkowski tallied 21 receptions for 473 yards and three touchdowns, but suffered a chest injury when he was hit by Earl Thomas of the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10.
Earl Thomas with the BOOM on Gronk. pic.twitter.com/ySkzHW9aeM— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) November 14, 2016
After missing Week 11, Gronkowski returned in Week 12 but left in the first quarter with a back injury that ruled him out for the rest of the day. However, it wasn’t deemed serious after the game.
The Patriots were confident enough in the quick return of Gronkowski, that third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett was given the designation to return from injured reserve, meaning Gronkowski will have to remain on the active roster if New England hopes for him to return, but they don’t seem optimistic.
“Rob has always been one of our hardest workers and was voted captain for the leadership he provides on our team,” the team’s statement about Gronkowski’s surgery read. “We are deeply saddened any time a player is lost to injury. We are committed to assisting Rob throughout his recovery and look forward to his return to playing football for the New England Patriots.”
With five weeks left to play, Gronkowski will certainly miss the rest of the regular season. It’s possible he could return late in the postseason, but the Patriots will have to advance without him.
If Gronkowski misses eight full weeks, he’d miss the AFC Championship and be ready in time for Super Bowl LI.
The Patriots acquired tight end Martellus Bennett from the Chicago Bears in March via trade, and he’s been a productive part of the New England offense with 540 yards and four touchdowns.