FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At the start of the second half of the New England Patriots’ 22-17 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday, CBS sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl relayed part of a halftime conversation she had with coach Bill Belichick.
Naturally, the status of tight end Rob Gronkowski was part of the discussion after he left the game late in the first quarter with a back injury.
“Bill Belichick told me that’s something that they’re used to and they’re just going to have to adjust,” Erdahl said.
Indeed, the Patriots and Gronkowski have been down this road before.
This is the two-sided story of Gronkowski’s seven-year tenure with the Patriots -- off-the-charts play that at times has some asking if he might be the best to ever play the position balanced against a string of injuries that has caused fans to hold their breath every time he runs a seam route and takes a big hit.
The 27-year-old Gronkowski has had nine reported surgeries since his final year at the University of Arizona in 2009 -- on his back (three times), forearm (four), knee (one) and ankle (one) -- which sparks an obvious question: How much more can he take?
Here’s the Gronkowski rundown with the Patriots:
Gronkowski played all 16 regular-season games and the team’s lone playoff game in his rookie season after the Patriots selected him in the second round (42nd overall). He made 11 starts.
Becoming a full-time starter for the first time, he played in all 16 regular-season games and all three playoff games. In the AFC Championship Game against Baltimore, he suffered a high ankle sprain, which clearly affected him in Super Bowl XLVI even though he played through it.
Playing on the field goal protection unit against the Colts in the 10th game of the season, Gronkowski broke his left forearm and missed the next five games (the Patriots went 4-1). He returned in a limited role for the season finale before breaking the forearm again in the divisional round of the playoffs. The Patriots lost in the AFC title game the following week.
Following surgery on the forearm, Gronkowski suffered an infection, which required two additional surgeries on the forearm and led to him missing the first six games of the regular season (the team went 5-1). He also had surgery that offseason on a herniated disk in his back. Gronkowski played seven games upon his return before tearing his right ACL on a low hit by Browns safety T.J. Ward. He missed the final three regular-season games (2-1) and both playoff contests (1-1) as the Patriots bowed out in the AFC title game at Denver.
After two challenging seasons, Gronkowski was available for every game, although the Patriots made him a healthy scratch in the season finale to rest him. The team won Super Bowl XLIX.
Gronkowski took a big hit in a late-November game at Denver, which resulted in a sprained knee and an unusual situation in which the team and Gronkowski’s family released a joint statement. The Patriots generally don’t release statements on injuries, as the statement reflected some of the unique dynamics in play with Gronkowski and might have traced back to displeasure in Gronkowski’s camp with how things unfolded with his forearm in 2012-13. Gronkowski missed one game (a loss).
Gronkowski reportedly injured a pectoral muscle in the offseason, but he was available on the first day of training camp. He injured a hamstring in a joint practice with the Bears on Aug. 15, sidelining him for the first two games of the season (2-0) and limiting him in his first two games upon his return. After a sensational four-game stretch, Gronkowski then suffered a pulmonary contusion after absorbing a big hit from Seahawks safety Earl Thomas on Nov. 13 and missed the next week’s game (a win) before returning against the Jets on Nov. 27. Now he’s not expected to return for the rest of the season because of a lower-back injury. Similar to 2015, the Gronkowski family and Patriots released a joint statement.