NFL report: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski to have back surgery

The Rams are heavy underdogs for Sunday’s game at New England, but at least they can stop game-planning for Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Gronkowski is scheduled to undergo back surgery Friday in Los Angeles, according to multiple reports.

Gronkowski has had a series of injuries this season.

He suffered a chest injury that forced him to sit out against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 11 but played against the New York Jets last week.

Gronkowski has 25 receptions, three for touchdowns.

Rams Coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday that he was preparing for Gronkowski and quarterback Tom Brady regardless of their not practicing on Tuesday.

“I don’t know what the situation is. We’ll see,” Fisher said of Gronkowski. “He’s an impact player on their offense. But I can assure you that Tom is going to show up; he always does, week after week after week. At his age and with his experience, he doesn’t need a lot of practice reps. We’re not going to be misled by the lack of practice as far as the quarterback is concerned.”

Even with Gronkowski’s absence, the Rams still have a formidable challenge defending Patriots tight ends.

Martellus Bennett has 43 catches, four for touchdowns.

—Gary Klein

Cutler is done for season

Quarterback Jay Cutler will have season-ending surgery on his right shoulder, the latest blow in a lost season for the Chicago Bears.

“I talked to him earlier today. He's in good spirits,” Coach John Fox said. “It wasn't like it was never going to be an option. You try to avoid it, especially for a quarterback on your throwing shoulder. But he talked to many capable doctors, like he should. So that's been the determination at this point.”

Former USC quarterback Matt Barkley probably will make his second consecutive start when the Bears host the 49ers on Sunday. 

Etc.

NFL executive Troy Vincent told the Associated Press that he expects the league to hire as many as 17 full-time officials for the start of next season. The additions would increase the size of officiating crews from seven to eight, the league's vice president of football operations said. ... CBS Corp. said it obtained rights to carry NFL games on its CBS All Access streaming service, allowing the most-watched U.S. TV network to offer its most popular programming online. The multi-year deal with the NFL starts Sunday. ...

Kansas Chiefs defensive lineman Jaye Howard was put on injured reserve because of a hip injury, ending the veteran’s season. ... Buffalo Bills receiver Sammy Watkins returned to practice, but offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said that Watkins was still dealing with a broken bone in his left foot.

—Associated Press

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