Take a deep breath, Patriots fans!! Losing Rob Gronkowski isn't the end of the world ... so says New England legend Troy Brown, who thinks the Pats are still Super Bowl bound THIS YEAR.
Gronk had season-ending surgery on his back Friday ... leaving the folks in Foxborough worried about their chances at the team's 5th Lombardi trophy.
But Brown -- a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame -- says New England is so used to players like Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo coming off the bench and dominating, the "next man up" concept is part of the team's DNA.
"That football team was great before Gronk, it was great with Gronk, and they're probably going to be great without him."
TMZ Sports has obtained a photo of Ronald Gasser moments after he shot Joe McKnight ... and the witness who took the photo says he WAS yelling at McKnight's body after the fatal shots were fired.
The person who took the photo says the item on Ronald's blue Infiniti is the gun he used to shoot the ex-NFL running back.
The witness -- who is NOT the same person who spoke with NOLA.com -- says she heard the two men arguing on Thursday afternoon ... while she was visiting a nearby business. The witness says she spoke with officers at the scene and gave them her information but hasn't heard from them since.
After the shots were fired, the witness says she distinctly remembers seeing Gasser over McKnight's body ... and heard him yelling at the downed football star, "I told you I was going to f**k you up."
Here's Dr. Oz dumbing down Rob Gronkowski's season-ending back injury, 'cause we know all that medical talk can be confusing sometimes.
Gronk left the Pats v. Jets last Sunday due to a herniated disc ... and now that the team announced that he's having season-ending surgery, Oz explains why the Pro Bowl TE won't be able to contribute to New England's Super Bowl run.
Long story short ... Gronk is in a lot of pain, but Oz believes he should be fine in a few months.
Not only is Tony Gonzalez okay with Antonio Gates taking over his all-time tight end touchdown record ... his ridiculously beautiful wife is too ... both giving a thumbs-up to Gates to take a part of TG's legacy.
Gonzalez currently holds the all-time NFL record for TD catches by a TE at 111, but Gates is on his heels with 109 ... and will probably pass him any week now with the way the Chargers chuck the ball.
So, when we got Gonzalez out in BH with his gorgeous (sorry we keep saying it, Tony, but it's true) wife, October, we had to know ... how does it feel to get your name wiped off the history books?
Tony also chimes in on whether or not Gates should get anything for Philip Rivers -- the guy who tossed him all those TD's ... Gates said he wasn't ... Tony has some ideas.
Joe McKnight's CFL teammates are "in total disbelief" he was killed in a road rage incident ... with one member of the squad telling TMZ Sports McKnight was "the coolest dude ever" and would never get violent.
We spoke to Jeff Knox -- the starting middle linebacker for the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL -- who tells us the team was shaken to the core when they heard the sad news.
"We have a team group chat, no one believed it at first. I was like NO WAY this could happen to Joe, the guy never looked for any trouble, just wanted to play football and get home to his kids."
Witnesses say McKnight was actually attempting to apologize to his gunman before he was killed ... and, according to Knox, that's exactly who he was.
"He might have saw his hair and thought he was just some random hoodlum, not knowing he was a pro athlete with a family. I never met a nicer guy, we used to go at it on the field, if he ever cut me, or blocked me wrong he apologized."
Joe McKnight's USC family is heartbroken over the death of the running back.
We spoke with Tennessee Titans linebacker Jurrell Casey -- who played with McKnight in 2008 and 2009 -- who tells us, "He will definitely be missed."
"I want to send my regards to his friends and family," Casey says.
"He was always a great guy and fun to be around. He's always had encouraging words. We had some great laughs. He was such a good person to talk to."
Brian Cushing also issued an emotional statement -- "Joe I'll never forget the time we had together at SC. It was unbelievable to see you grow and work your ass off from a freshman until the day you were drafted."
"We competed every day in practice only wanting the best for each other. I'm absolutely crushed to hear the news today about you being gone. I'll never forget what you accomplished and how far you came as a player and a person. RIP Joe McKnight."
LenDale White didn't play with McKnight -- but McKnight's death is hitting him very hard.
"I'm so fu****g hurt right now. Tears jus keep flowing I love u lil bro. long live smokin Joe!!!!"
He adds, "I jus keep wishing this is a bad dream!!!"
Reggie Bush -- "RIP my brother Joe McKnight this one hurts bad."
Matt Leinart -- "News about Joe Mcknight is devastating. Just at a loss of words!"
Su'a Cravens -- "Rest In Peace to one of my all time favorite Trojans Joe McKnight ... Gone way too soon and I'll pray for your family! Sad man, just sad."
Keyshawn Johnson -- "RIP to former Trojan and NY Jet, Joe McKnight. Man this s--- has got to STOP"
2:40 PM PT -- Cops say they have detained a man they believe to be the shooter -- 54-year-old Ronald Gasser.
Cops say McKnight did NOT have a gun at the time of the shooting.
Emergency responders tried to administer CPR but to no avail.
Ex-NFL running back Joe McKnight was murdered in a road rage shooting in the New Orleans area ... law enforcement tells TMZ Sports.
The incident occurred at 2:43 PM. Family members identified the 28-year-old at the scene.
A witness told NOLA.com ... she saw McKnight trying to apologize to another man after some sort of traffic incident.
The witness says the man then pulled out a gun and shot McKnight -- and while standing over him screamed, "I told you not to f*** with me" ... then fired another shot into his body.
McKnight was a high school phenom -- considered the best running back in the country.
He played college ball at USC. He was drafted by the NY Jets in 2010.
In a statement to TMZ Sports, the Jets said, "Joe McKnight was a loving father and a genuine, kind-hearted person. It is sad when life is taken in what appears to be such a senseless act of violence. Joe you will be missed."
Joe was currently playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
Roughriders president and CEO Craig Reynolds issued a statement saying, "We are saddened to hear of the tragic loss of Joe McKnight."
"Losing a member of our Rider family this way is an unthinkable occurrence. Our thoughts and prayers are with Joe’s family, teammates and coaches."
Fact:David Carr was the most sacked rookie QB in the history of the NFL ... 76 sacks in 2002!
Fact: He was so determined to make sure his little bro, Derek Carr, didn't suffer the same fate, he personally ran him through an anti-sack clinic back in college!
We spoke with Tim DeRuyter -- Derek's old ball coach at Fresno State who says David would spend hours with the future Raiders QB ... giving him all the tips he needed to avoid eating turf at the next level.
Tim says NFL scouts were concerned that Derek could be sack-prone like David -- so David made it his mission to prove them all wrong!
Seems the clinic worked ... Derek's been killing it this season with more than 3,000 yards and 22 TDs through 11 games ... and he's only been sacked 13 times.
Here's Greg Hardy looking blue during a court hearing in Dallas Wednesday ... where he's facing a cocaine charge stemming from a Sept. arrest.
Nothing big happened inside the courtroom -- the hearing was kicked to Dec. 19 -- but outside, Hardy's attorneys hinted at his possible defense ... saying footage of the arrest is disturbing, according to FOX 4.
The Miami Dolphins say they have positively identified the scumbags who attacked a family of 49ers fans at Hard Rock Stadium this weekend ... and have revoked their season tickets.
The video of the fight went viral -- showing a gang of Dolphins fans brutally attacking various family members including a man who verbally warned that his grandchildren were with him. The men also came dangerously close to striking a child who was sleeping on a woman's shoulder.
The Dolphins had said they launched an internal investigation into the incident -- and have taken swift action against the men involved.
"We conducted an immediate internal review of the situation and have identified the season ticket members who were involved in the incident," a Dolphins spokesperson tells TMZ Sports.
"Their season tickets have been revoked and they have been banned from the stadium."
"We work hard to remind fans that we want this to be a safe environment and this type of behavior and conduct is not acceptable."
Atlanta Falcons superstar cornerback Desmond Trufant is hinting that he could return to the field THIS SEASON should the team make a deep run in the playoffs ... but it's a MAJOR long shot.
Trufant landed in L.A. early Tuesday -- after the team placed him on injured reserve due to a bad pectoral injury. He's expected to undergo surgery either today or Wednesday.
Here's the thing ... when we asked him if there was a shot he could come back this season, he didn't say no ... instead telling us, "We'll see."
We looked into it and technically there's a chance. Our NFL sources tell us he'd be eligible to return for the Super Bowl if the team makes it that far ... AND if the Falcons don't pull any other player off the IR before then.
However, our Falcons sources tell us it's HIGHLY UNLIKELY ... because the surgery typically sidelines players for several months and the odds of Trufant being healthy enough to play by Feb. 5 are slim.
Still, we're told the guy has a crazy work ethic and at the very least should be back killin' it for the Falcons next season.