Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski to undergo back surgery

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been more and more banged up in recent weeks, and now he’s facing an extended absence.

Dating back to Week 10 against the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been dealing with various injuries. A chest injury suffered in that game sidelined him for Week 11 against the San Francisco 49ers, and a back issue took him out of last Sunday’s game against the New York Jets early. After being held out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday, the injury news surrounding Gronkowski has ramped up in severity.

An eight-week absence from right now would sideline Gronkowski until the Super Bowl, if the Patriots get that far. An earlier return is possible, though unlikely, but this is also the third known time Gronkowski has undergone back surgery in his career.

Martellus Bennett has been a capable second-fiddle to Gronkowski this season, with 42 receptions for 540 yards and four touchdowns with three 100-yard receiving games. Bennett is a little banged up himself right now, with ankle and shoulder issues, but based on his own words he doesn’t seem to be in danger of missing games. With Gronkowski out for the foreseeable future, Bennett is now New England’s clear No. 1 tight end.

Gronkowski is an unrivaled talent, particularly among NFL tight ends, so the Patriots will clearly miss him. But as long as Tom Brady is healthy, which is a question in itself as he deals with a knee issue, New England will remain a Super Bowl contender in the AFC.

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