Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski to undergo back surgery Friday

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Rob Gronkowski’s season is likely over.

The New England Patriots tight end was scheduled to have surgery Friday for a herniated disk in his lower back, the team said in a statement Thursday night.

The team said it doesn’t expect Gronkowski to be able to return this season, but will await the results of the surgery before making a final determination. The Super Bowl is Feb. 5, should the Patriots get that far.

Gronkowski sat out practice Wednesday with what listed as a back injury. He was absent from practice again Thursday.

The Patriots said Gronkowski sustained a hit to the chest Nov. 13 against Seattle that resulted in a pulmonary contusion to his lung. He received medical clearance to return last week against the New York Jets and experienced significant back and leg pain.

Gronkowski has missed three games this season. He has 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns. He also dealt with a hamstring injury in 2016.

The 2014 Comeback Player of the Year, Gronkowski’s career has been plagued by injuries. A second-round draft pick in 2010, he has had ankle and knee surgery once, and three operations on his forearm.

He has missed 20 games in his career and played many others while not 100 percent.

Gronkowski is a three-time All-Pro.

Statement from New England Patriots and the Gronkowski family:

During the Seattle game on November 13, Rob sustained a hit to the chest that resulted in a pulmonary contusion to his lung. Rob was examined by several specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital as directed by the team, as well as an independent physician. He received medical clearance to return to play two weeks later for the New York Jets game on November 27. After a hit early in the Jets game, Rob began to experience significant back and leg pain. This injury forced him to leave the game and he did not return. With the help of the Patriots medical staff, along with the consultation of several medical experts, it has been determined that it is in Rob’s best long-term interest to undergo surgery to address his lower back injury. Rob is expected to have surgery tomorrow. 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.

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