Rob Gronkowski to have back surgery, could reportedly be out eight weeks

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a ruptured disk in New England's loss to the Seahawks two weeks ago and he'll need surgery. The Patriots and the Gronkowski family released a statement on Thursday night confirming Gronkowski will have surgery Friday and that the recovery timetable remains up in the air.

From the Patriots statement:

We do not expect that he will be able to play for the remainder of the 2016 season, but will await the results of tomorrow's surgery before making a final determination. Rob has always been one of our hardest workers and was voted captain for the leadership he provides on our team. We are deeply saddened any time a player is lost to injury. We are committed to assisting Rob throughout his recovery and look forward to his return to playing football for the New England Patriots.

The Buffalo News' Vic Carucci, who had the initial report of the tight end's impending surgery, adds that Gronkowski is expected to miss eight weeks.

Injuries have been a recurring theme throughout Gronkowski's otherwise dominant career. The former second-round pick out of Arizona is unstoppable when healthy, but he hasn't played all 16 regular-season games since 2011, his second year in the league. In fact, Gronkowski had back surgery in college, forcing him to miss 13 games in 2009.

Since 2012, Gronk has broken his forearm (requiring four separate surgeries), torn his ACL and had another surgery on his back.

Gronkowski has played in eight games this season, and has 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns. Despite missing three games, he ranks third among all tight ends in total value, according to Football Outsiders' metrics, and is first in value per play.

No. 4 in total value? Martellus Bennett, who the Patriots acquired via trade in the offseason, and who now becomes an even more important part of the offense. Bennett missed Wednesday's practice with ankle and shoulder injuries and his status for Sunday's game against the Rams remains up in the air. Still, it sounds like the Patriots would very much like to lock Bennett up long term. Partly because he has remained relatively healthy in his NFL career, but also because he has big-play potential, especially in a Tom Brady offense.

What does the injury mean for the Pats' title chances? Well, it hurts, obviously, but according to SportsLine's Stephen Oh, New England's 24 percent chance to win the Super Bowl post-Gronk still puts them well ahead of Dallas and Seattle, who each have a 15 percent chance at winning it all.

Here's the impact of Gronk's injury in table form:

PatriotsAFC Champs
Super Bowl Champs
with Gronk
49%31%
without Gronk
42%24%
Impact-7%-7%

Even without Gronk, the Patriots should be favored to win their five remaining regular-season games. That includes a trip to Denver to face last year's Super Bowl champs in what SportsLine is now deeming a toss-up:

WeekOpponentWith Gronk
Without Gronk
13vs. Rams
80%75%
14vs. Ravens
74%70%
15at Broncos
57%51%
16vs. Jets
79%74%
17at Dolphins
73%68%
Average Win %
73%68%

Meanwhile, CBS Sports NFL analyst and former Ravens and Jets linebacker Bart Scott thinks this could be the beginning of the end of the Gronk era in New England.

"Gronk's on his way out [of New England]," Scott said on CBS Sports Radio's The DA Show this week. "Because of injuries, and they don't stick with you when they see you slipping. When you have a big man that starts having back problems -- he's only in his seventh year, and he has two years remaining. And guess what? They already brought in his replacement and they can get him for cheaper."

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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