Patriots' Rob Gronkowski to have back surgery, season likely over

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will undergo surgery for a herniated disc in his back Friday and is expected to miss two months, USA TODAY Sports' Tom Pelissero confirmed.

Super Bowl LI will be played Feb. 5 in Houston, so the all-pro's season is most likely over.

Robert Watkins will operate on Gronk's back for the third time since 2009, according to the Boston Herald.

Gronkowski, who's missed three games with various ailments this season, did not finish Sunday's win against the New York Jets after injuring his back.

He's also dealt with hamstring issues and a punctured lung this year.

It's a big blow to the AFC East-leading Patriots, but Tom Brady and Co. could withstand Gronkowski's loss given the play of fellow tight end Martellus Bennett, who has 42 receptions for 540 yards and four touchdowns. Gronkowski has 25 catches for 540 yards, a career-best 21.6 per catch, and three touchdowns but has only appeared in eight games.

Injuries have long been an issue for the seventh-year veteran. He underwent surgery to repair his ankle following Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. He broke his forearm the following season and needed surgery, and then required another operation after he re-injured it. And in 2013, he underwent a third procedure, this time to clean an infection in the forearm. A fourth surgery on his arm was performed, and he also had subsequent back surgery.

Gronkowski has also had reconstructive knee surgery.

Friday's procedure will be the eighth known surgical operation of his NFL career.

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