New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski reportedly ruptured a disc in his back and will undergo surgery on Friday, according to reports.
Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports that Gronkowski is expected to be back in eight weeks, which would be the AFC Championship game.
It's a brutal blow for the Patriots as they round into the final stretch of the regular season.
Though the Patriots at 9-2 seem to have the AFC East locked up, playing without Gronkowski, Brady's top weapon, significantly reduces the potency of their offense. There's no guarantee that the Patriots will make it to the AFC Championship game, meaning if Gronkowski takes the full eight weeks to recover, he could be out for the season.
It's been an injury-riddled season for Gronkowski. He missed the first two games of the season with hamstring troubles and was limited the following two weeks. In Week 10 Gronkowski took what he called "one of the hardest hits" of his career against the Seahawks and injured his lungs, missing the following week. He returned in Week 12 and injured his back diving for a deep catch and did not return. Though he's played 15 games in back-to-back seasons, Gronkowski has only managed the full 16 games twice in his seven-year career.
Luckily, for the Patriots, they do boast a deep roster on offense. Martellus Bennett, who they traded for in the offseason, is a more-than-capable tight end to replace Gronkowski, but there's no doubt that the Patriots' path to the Super Bowl just became more difficult.