Gronkowski left Sunday's game against the New York Jets with an injury. A source told Schefter that ultimately Gronkowski was diagnosed with a herniated disk. The need for surgery was first reported by The Buffalo News.
This will be Gronkowski's third back surgery. He has had two previous surgeries to repair herniated disks in his back -- in 2009, when he was at the University of Arizona and missed the entire season, and in 2013, in his fourth season with the Patriots, when he underwent surgery in June and didn't return until Week 7.
Gronkowski had returned to action Sunday after missing the team's game the week before because of a chest injury. Gronkowski played seven snaps in a 22-17 win over the Jets, leaving the game late in the first quarter as he walked off under his own power accompanied by members of the team's medical staff. The team later announced he had sustained a back injury during the game and would not return.
"It doesn't help losing great players, and to not have Gronk out there -- one of our best players and one of our most dependable, consistent players -- makes things challenging for us," quarterback? Tom Brady?told Westwood One Radio on Thursday night. "But that's what the NFL season is about. It's about overcoming challenges, adversities."
Brady's Patriots are a nearly two-touchdown favorite for Sunday's home game against the Rams.
It was unclear on what play Gronkowski injured his back.
It could have happened on a third-and-7 play with 9:04 remaining in the first quarter, as Gronkowski was the intended receiver on a deep pass down the middle of the field as he dove for the ball.
But Gronkowski played one more series after that play, and was the intended receiver on an incomplete pass down the right sideline on third-and-4 before walking off.
Gronkowski and Brady?were not present for practice on Wednesday. Brady, who is listed as having a knee injury, returned to the field Thursday.
The Patriots used their injured reserve/return designation on quarterback Jacoby Brissett on Wednesday, so the team wouldn't be able to place Gronkowski on injured reserve and activate him if it makes a deep playoff run. Each team is allowed to designate only one player to return.