NFL: Gronkowski to undergo back surgery

NFL: Gronkowski to undergo back surgery

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The New England Patriots were dealt a dose of brutal news Thursday: Rob Gronkowski’s back injury was worse than originally thought.

The tight end will undergo back surgery on Friday for a herniated disk and be out several weeks, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.

In a statement released Thursday night, the Patriots confirmed Gronk would have back surgery and that he is in danger of missing the remainder of the season.

“We do not expect that he will be able to play for the remainder of the 2016 season, but will await the results of (Friday’s) surgery before making a final determination,” the statement said.

The Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci first reported the news.

Tom Brady’s favorite target could end up on injured reserve after Friday’s surgery. Brady said in a radio interview Thursday night that overcoming Gronkowski’s absence will be a challenge for the Patriots.

“It doesn’t help losing great players,” Brady told Jim Gray on the Westwood One Radio Network, “and to not have Gronk out there as one of our best players and most dependable, consistent players … makes things challenging for us, but that’s what the NFL season is about. It’s about overcoming challenges, adversities.”

Gronkowski took a massive hit three weeks ago from Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, suffering a perforated lung on the blow. Gronk left last week’s win over the New York Jets with a back injury.

While the team initially thought the tight end could return in short order, further examination revealed he needed surgery.

Although the injury likely won’t stop the Pats (9-2) from making the playoffs, it’s a severe blow to their Super Bowl chances if Gronk can’t return in the postseason.

Friday’s procedure marks the third on the 27-year-old’s back, after surgeries in 2009 and 2013.

It’s safe to start pondering whether Gronkowski’s Hall of Fame-caliber career will be chronically marred by recurring injuries. The seventh-year pro had already missed 18 games (not including playoffs) in his career due to injury before the back injury.

2016: Hamstring, lung (3 games)
2015: Knee (1 game)
2013: Back, forearm, ACL/MCL, concussion (9 games)
2012: Hip, forearm (5 games)

The loss of Gronk is a severe blow to Brady. The Pats’ offense becomes much less dynamic without the matchup nightmare, especially in the red zone.

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