Oft-Injured Rob Gronkowski Faces Uncertain Future After Season-Ending Surgery
For much of the past week, the New England Patriots held off placing superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski on injured reserve, holding on to the fleeting hope that their top offensive weapon could make it back for the AFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl should the Pats make it to either.
That dream came to an end Saturday when the team officially placed Gronk on IR, ending his 2016 season. This isn’t Gronk’s first rodeo, and he certainly isn’t new to the herniated disc surgery he underwent Friday, as he’s had the same procedure twice before, one in college in 2009 and once in 2012.
The injury isn’t considered career-ending; however, the back pain and flare-ups Gronk may experience could hurt his ability to play consistently moving forward—and, of course, Gronkowski should consider his future and the potential debilitation repeated similar injuries may cause down the road.
“Could he play again? Yes, definitely,” said Dr. Thomas Gill, Director of the Boston Sports Medicine and Research Institute and former Pats’ team doctor. “But he’ll need to take a long hard look at it, talk to his family, his surgeon, his agent, discuss whether he wants to keep playing. That’s a personal decision he’ll need to reflect on. He’ll need to work it out with his family.”
Dr. Gill couldn’t name another player who he’s seen through years with the Pats and NFL Scouting Combine who has played after three spine surgeries. It’s not necessarily recommended.
Gronk did have this to say about the surgery to FOX’s Jay Glazer. “I highly appreciate the support from all my teammates, friends and family and the courage to stay strong,” Gronkowski told Glazer, as aired on “FOX NFL Sunday.” “I am excited to knock out this rehab and get this core extra strong and looking super fresh to get this body back out on the field.”
“Not saying Gronk can’t do it. Not saying he would be the first. But the first I’m aware of. In sports medicine, past performance is a predictor of the future.”
Despite the newest setback, the Patriots have no intentions of letting Gronk go anywhere. Quarterback Tom Brady sees his quarterback rating drop nearly 30 points without Gronkowski on the field. He’s the most dominant tight end in the league, perhaps in the history of the sport in general.
The Patriots have also had many problems in the postseason without their tight end in the past. Only time will tell if the offseason addition of Martellus Bennett will be enough to offset the loss and drag the Patriots deeper into January.