Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski not expected back in 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 27: New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) warms up prior to the National Football League game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets on November 27, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)
Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Despite the back injury, the New England Patriots remained optimistic that tight end Rob Gronkowski would perhaps be able to return sometime during the playoffs. However, the tight end all but put that possibility to rest Thursday night.

The Patriots and the Gronkowski family released a statement, explaining the plan moving forward for the All-Pro tight end.

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 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.

Gronkowski suffered his back injury during the first quarter when he fell hard on his backside on a deep pass attempt against the New York Jets on Sunday.

After injury problems early in his career, the Patriots tight end had been relatively healthy the last two years before 2016, playing all but two games and earning All-Pro honors in 2014 and 2015.

But this season, he missed the first two games of the year due to a hamstring issue, another week because of a bruised lung and now he is dealing with this back injury.

Despite all that trouble, he leads the league with 21.6 yards per reception, hauling in 25 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns this season.

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