New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski will undergo back surgery and miss the remainder of the regular season.
Gronkowski will have surgery for a herniated disk on Friday, multiple media outlets reports Thursday. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News, who broke the news via Twitter, reported that Gronkowski is expected to be sidelined for eight weeks, per NFL sources.
That timetable would put Gronkowski on the shelf until the week of the Super Bowl should the Patriots, currently tied for the top record in the AFC, advance that far.
The Patriots apparently were unaware of the severity of the injury, using their injury/designation to return Wednesday on rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett. That means they would have to carry Gronkowski on the active roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
The 6-foot-6, 265-pound Gronkowski was hurt in a Week 10 loss against Seattle when he absorbed a thunderous hit to the chest from Seahawks safety Earl Thomas.
Gronkowski sat out a Week 11 matchup against San Francisco and exited Sunday’s game against the New York Jets with what the team termed a back injury. The Boston Herald reported that Gronkowski felt a tingling sensation in his back after taking a hard fall against the Jets.
In his seventh season with New England, Gronkowski set a franchise record with his 69th touchdown against Buffalo on Oct. 30. Gronkowski registered multiple double-digit touchdown receptions in five of his seven seasons, including a career-best 17 in 2011.
A second-round draft pick out of Arizona in 2010, Gronkowski also has been plagued by injuries during his star-studded career, including back issues in college that raised enough concerns to keep him out of the first round.
Gronkowski did not make his season debut until Week 4 due to a hamstring injury, but he took off once quarterback Tom Brady returned from a season-opening four-game suspension.
In a four-game span beginning in Week 5, Gronkowski had 21 receptions and three touchdowns while going over 100 yards three times.
Backup tight end Martellus Bennett has filled in admirably in Gronkowski’s absence and as a complement to the perennial Pro Bowler, posting three 100-yard games of his own.
Bennett, though, currently is dealing with ankle and shoulder injuries.