Patriots' Gronkowski to undergo back surgery

Fantasy football replacements for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski

The towering Rob Gronkowski will not be available. A fourth surgery on his arm was performed, and he also had subsequent back surgery. He missed the first two games of the season with hamstring troubles and was limited the following two weeks. Brady's Week Five return from Deflategate coincided with one of the best four-game stretches of Gronk's career. Perhaps he re-aggravated it worse early in the Jets game and the Patriots doctors decided it was time to have the surgery. If not, no worries - this is still the Patriots. Initial reports said the injury was not serious, but speculation began following his absence at a Children's Hospital event Tuesday night. Without having access to the big man's medical file, some disk herniation can be a minor issue with non-surgical treatment helping on getting the disks back in place.

It's been an injury-riddled season for Gronkowski.

The Patriots fully support that decision.

"Rob has always been one of our hardest workers and was voted captain for the leadership he provides on our team", the Patriots wrote in the statement. It becomes more challenging when you lose such a great player in Gronk, but I don't think any of us are going to give up on what we're trying to accomplish. Losing their best offensive weapon could lower the ceiling for the Patriots season as they were expected to contend for a championship but now may fall behind several surging teams in the AFC.

Just as concerning, the 27-year-old's third back procedure will mark his ninth surgery since 2009. Gronkowski had one ankle surgery, four forearm surgeries and a knee surgery to fix his ACL and MCL. They're 15-7 (.682) without him, including 1-2 in the playoffs.

Gronk sat out the following week against San Francisco. Brady missed practice again Wednesday but was back on the practice field Thursday as the Patriots readied for Sunday's game at home against the Los Angeles Rams. He missed the Patriots' Week 11 win over the 49ers with a chest injury. "Obviously as an offense, our job is to put points on the board and that just comes from executing one play at a time".

Gronkowski took a pretty big beating in the Seahawks game, capped by a nasty body shot from Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas. 5, should the Patriots get that far.

"Ten years ago, you would have gotten a lot of people that would call this a career-ending surgery, but we know a lot more now that make me optimistic that Gronkowski can fulfill a very promising career", Hsu told USA TODAY Sports.

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