UPDATE (3:45 p.m. ET): NESN.com Patriots beat writer Doug Kyed confirmed through a source that Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will have surgery on his back Friday.
UPDATE (2:45 p.m. ET): There are some conflicting reports here. While The Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci initially reported Rob Gronkowski suffered his back injury during the Seahawks game — in a hit from Earl Thomas that also injured his chest — Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald later refuted that information.
ORIGINAL STORY: The New England Patriots have five games remaining in their regular season. They’ll have to play all of them without tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Gronkowski is set to undergo back surgery Friday in Los Angeles, according to reports Thursday from the Buffalo News’ Vic Carucci and ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio. The tight end is expected to miss the next eight weeks, per Carruci’s sources.
Gronkowski suffered a chest injury during New England’s Week 10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and it sidelined him for the following week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. He returned to action Sunday against the New York Jets, only to leave that game with what the team called a back injury.
According to Carucci’s sources, however, Gronkowski initially injured his back during the Seahawks game, suffering a ruptured disk.
An eight-week timetable would sideline Gronkowski through the AFC Championship Game, which will be played Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. If the Patriots want him to play again this season, they cannot place him on injured reserve.
Gronkowski has played in eight of the Patriots’ 11 games this season, catching 25 passes for 540 yards and three touchdowns. The four-time All-Pro leads the NFL in yards per reception (21.6) and is tied for first among tight ends with 12 catches of 20-plus yards.
With Gronkowski out, Martellus Bennett becomes the Patriots’ No. 1 tight end. Bennett is enjoying a strong campaign following his offseason trade from the Chicago Bears, playing in all 11 games and catching 42 passes for 540 yards and four touchdowns.
New England has just three tight ends on its 53-man roster: Gronkowski, Bennett and Matt Lengel, who has yet to catch his first NFL pass.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images