The Flat: Rob Gronkowski’s third back surgery ends his season

We were dealt quite a bit of breaking news on Thursday: Patriots’s four-time pro-bowl TE, Rob Gronkowski, is out for the remainder of the 2016 season. He underwent back surgery on Friday, his third such procedure since 2009.

Here’s a written joint statement released by the Patriots and Gronkowski family, per CSN New England:

During the Seattle game on November 13, Rob sustained a hit to the chest that resulted in a pulmonary contusion to his lung. Rob was examined by several specialists at Massachusetts General Hospital as directed by the team, as well as an independent physician. He received medical clearance to return to play two weeks later for the New York Jets game on November 27. After a hit early in the Jets game, Rob began to experience significant back and leg pain.  This injury forced him to leave the game and he did not return. With the help of the Patriots medical staff, along with the consultation of several medical experts, 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 on 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.

When I first came across the devastating news on Instagram, of all places, my initial reaction was no way this is really happening… (*swipes down to refresh*) Oh, it was and is real. My next thought, as it settled in, was thank God we have Martellus Bennett. That trade with the Bears for Bennett not only insured depth at the TE position, it also gives Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady a legit target to set-up pass plays for. Bennett is a proven player in the league who can make first-down grabs, run-block and be a red-zone threat.

Those abilities Bennett offers is good enough for the Patriots, given the luxury and privilage they’ve had in Gronkowski. On any other team, Bennett is a star. Gronk is special, obviously, because he’s a TE that can act like a wide-out, break tackles and gain eye-opening yards after catch. A 10-yard pickup can easily turn into a 25-plus yard game-changer. There’s no replacing No. 87, but if any team and player-coach combo can pull off a loss like this it’s the Patriots, Brady and Bellichick. They’ve done it time and again.

Without Gronk, will the Patriots be the No. 1 seed and earn a first-round bye? Yes. Will they reach Super Bowl LI? Yes. I did pick them after all, and I plan to stick by that choice as someone who predicted that outcome and as a fan.

Twitter reaction on Gronk news from a few NFL analysts:

Tweeted stats of Patriots and Brady with and without Gronk:


Mind Over Body: Playing in the N.F.L. at 38 (Ben Sphigel, The New York Times)

I always enjoy reading a really good feature from time to time. This one from Ben Sphigel, whose work I’m reading for the first time, is not only fantastic; it’s also an original spin on how to go in-depth with the way in which you as the journalist and writer characterize your subject.

Simmons vs. Gladwell: The Future of Football (Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell, The Ringer)

A fun read from none other than Bill Simmons alongside the brilliant Malcolm Gladwell.

I listen to podcasts a lot, and none of them have ever made me feel emotionally invested. Until… now. As I was listening to Sam Wyche tell his story of how he needed a heart transplant to live another day, I couldn’t help but tear and choke-up.

I only suggest you listen to this one podcast this week because it’s a life story and experience we personally may or may not go through, hopefully not. But Wyche has a message of advocacy toward the end that’s actually forcing me to reconsider where I stood on it for my whole life. I may write about it for my personal blog, now named, “J” Talking.

I want to start embedding more player and coach interviews. I’ll try to share the ones that are entertaining and interesting listens. This one with Ravens’s K, Justin Tucker, is a goodie.

I slowly want to start reading up on, listening and watching college football. I’m at a place with the NFL where I’m comfortable with my knowledge of the game now, as you can see the growth The Flat has gone through over the past three months.

The more I learn about the college side, its players and coaches; the more I’ll talk about it here. So I thought let’s start with a familiar name and a really great player from an excellent program: Wisconsin Badgers’s OLB, T.J. Watt. 

Yes, before you wonder to yourself is he the brother of Texans’s DE, J.J. Watt? Yes, yes he is. J.J. is the well-known sibling, but they also have a middle brother who’s a FB for the Chargers: Derek Watt, in case you didn’t know.

Mike Florio is always provocative. Is there much else I need to say?


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