FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — No more end-zone spikes for a while from Rob Gronkowski.
A person familiar with the process said Monday the New England Patriots tight end expects to be sidelined for four to six weeks after having surgery for a broken left forearm. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because there was no official announcement.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave no update on the high-scoring, free-spirited tight end, who appeared to be hurt while blocking on an extra point late in the Patriots’ 59-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.
Asked during an early afternoon conference call if Gronkowski had undergone surgery, Belichick said, “I really haven’t met with our doctors and trainers yet today. I do that at the end of the day. I don’t have any updates.
“Whatever the injury information is, we’ll release it in a timely fashion, when we’re required by the league, just like we always do.”
The Patriots gave no estimate of how long Gronkowski, who hasn’t missed a game in his three NFL seasons, might be sidelined. But they have to make a quick adjustment with only three days to prepare for Thursday night’s game at the New York Jets.
The Patriots (7-3) lead the other three AFC East teams, including the Jets, by three games.
Gronkowski caught seven passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts, becoming the first tight end in NFL history with at least 10 touchdowns in three consecutive seasons. He has 53 catches for 748 yards this season.
After his first touchdown on a 4-yard pass midway through the first quarter Sunday, he spiked the ball, causing a nearby official to throw his hands in front of his body for protection. And after the first of his two touchdowns on Oct. 28 in a 45-7 win over the St. Louis Rams in London, Gronkowski did a high-stepping strut to mimic a local tourist attraction then spiked the ball.
“That was a ‘Palace Guard,'” he joked after the game.
On Sunday, he went to the locker room with team physician Dr. Thomas Gill with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter after blocking on an extra point that increased the victory margin to 35 points.
Gronkowski has played with a hip injury this season and was listed as questionable on the injury report for each of the past seven games. But Belichick voiced no second thoughts of continuing to have him block on kicks.
“I don’t think there are any quicker ways to lose a game than getting a kick blocked and run back for a touchdown,” he said. “Whoever does it, it’s a very important job in the game.”
The extra point on which Gronkowski was hurt followed the final touchdown, a 4-yard run by Shane Vereen. After the kick, and while most of his teammates were gathering near placekicker Stephen Gostkowski to congratulate each other, Gronkowski walked straight to the sideline with his left arm hanging by his side.
On the play, Gronkowski had lined up on the far right of the tight formation. Cornerback Marshay Green charged toward a narrow gap to Gronkowski’s left. Gronkowski raised his left arm, bent at the elbow. The arm bent back as it contacted Green’s left side. Gronkowski’s right arm did not touch anyone.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said Monday morning that he had known about the injury but did not know its extent.
“It’s part of this game,” he said on his weekly appearance on WEEI radio. “He’s got to do his best to get back as soon as possible, and we’ve got to go out there and win some games without him.”
Gronkowski had 10 touchdown catches as a rookie in 2010, then set NFL records for tight ends last year with 17 touchdowns and 1,327 yards receiving. He caught 90 passes. But he sprained his left ankle in the AFC title game and was a nonfactor in the Super Bowl, which New England lost 21-17 to the New York Giants.
The Patriots’ other first-string tight end, Aaron Hernandez, has missed the last three games — and a total of six this season — after he sprained his right ankle in Week 2. He has 17 catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns in four games.
“We’ll see,” Hernandez said Monday when asked if he would play Thursday. Belichick said it might come down to “a game-time decision.”
The Patriots will have 10 days following Thanksgiving before they play again, giving Hernandez extra time to recover if he doesn’t play.
“I think that a player’s availability for the game would be judged on its merits, period, for this game,” Belichick said.
Hernandez practiced on a limited basis Monday, as he has before each of the last three games.
Gronkowski is “one of the best players in the league,” Hernandez said. “It puts pressure on everybody. Not just one player can just replace him.”
The other tight ends on the roster — Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui and Visanthe Shiancoe — have a total of four receptions. Shiancoe has played just two games since being activated off the injured reserve list. Fells was healthy but inactive and Shiancoe had no catches against the Colts.
“He gets better every time he goes on the field,” Belichick said of Shiancoe. “He has a chance to run the plays in our system, which he missed the majority of training camp being able to do that.”
Shiancoe is not unfamiliar with a starting role. In his 10th season in the league, Shiancoe came into his own as a Viking. After four ho-hum seasons with the Giants, Shiancoe made the most of his time with Minnesota, topping 500 yards receiving three times in five seasons.
In 2008-09 and 2009-10, in fact, he caught 18 total touchdown passes.