After Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ most important player, without question, is Rob Gronkowski. Well, the Patriots will have to find another second banana for Brady – at least for the rest of the regular season – as Gronkowski will undergo surgery to repair a herniated disc Friday.

He could miss up to eight weeks.


“It happened so fast,” Boston Globe Patriots beat writer Jim McBride said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “The early reports after the Jets game – and they were reliable sources – were saying that it wasn’t going to be a big deal and it looked like a really innocent fall he took. (Marcus) Gilchrist fell on top of him after that deep post route, and apparently it was a lot worse than people thought. They’re not expecting him for the rest of the regular season. If there’s any hope he comes back at all for a late playoff run or for the Super Bowl if they’re fortunate enough to make it, why bother taking him off the roster? Even if he’s only going to play one game, he’s that much of a difference maker.

Gronkowksi, 27, is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses, but he has battled injuries throughout his career. He played in just seven games in 2013 and played in just eight this year – and he wasn’t fully healthy for many of those, if any.

“It’s really been a tough injury season for him,” McBride said. “It started out as a hamstring injury in camp during a joint practice with the Bears, and really he’s only been right probably two weeks. Weeks 5 and 6, I think, were the weeks he was dominant and you saw the real Gronk.”

Gronkowski had 12 catches for 271 yards and a touchdown in those games. He has recorded double-digit touchdowns in five seasons. The only other players to do that are Jerry Rice, Randy Moss, Marvin Harrison, Terrell Owens, Cris Carter and Larry Fitzgerald.

Gronkowski’s impact on the New England offense cannot be understated. Since 2010, Brady’s Total QBR with Gronk is 80.4; without him, it’s 65.1. His touchdown-to-interception ratio with him is 5.1; without him, it’s 2.6.

“I don’t think people realize just what an impact he has all-around,” McBride said. “The fact that they’re willing to wait to see how this surgery goes before they make a move tells you that. Even if they have him for one game, he’s such a savant in this offense. I don’t think he’ll need a lot of time to get ready, maybe two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl and he could be ready and have a big impact on that game. That’s just how dominant he could be when he’s fully healthy. He just hasn’t been that way for most of this season.”


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