When Willie McGinest heard agent Drew Rosenhaus refer to client Rob Gronkowski’s upcoming back surgery as “minor” and not a “big deal,” he couldn’t help but laugh.

Naturally, the former Patriots linebacker understands an agent trying to protect his client by painting an upbeat picture. But having undergone two back surgeries himself, by the same noted back specialist slated to perform Gronk’s operation, McGinest knows a different perspective.

“I wonder how many surgeries he’s had?” McGinest asked rhetorically of Rosenhaus in a phone conversation with the Herald. “Any time they cut into you, it’s a big deal in my opinion. Until you’ve had multiple surgeries like that, it’s a big deal.”

McGinest, now an NFL Network analyst, had his first back surgery in 2001 when he was with the Patriots, and his second in 2007 when he was with the Browns. Both were performed by Dr. Robert Watkins, who is expected to administer to Gronk’s disc problem by mid-month.

Watkins was also the surgeon who did the initial back surgery on Gronkowski in 2009 when the tight end was at the University of Arizona.

While McGinest can’t comment with any certainty about Gronk’s procedure as he doesn’t know all the details, he can provide some helpful information.

As for recovery time, McGinest said it took him 6-7 weeks to get back on the field for practice after his first surgery, which he underwent during the offseason prior to the Pats’ first Super Bowl-winning season.

“By 61⁄2 weeks, I was still struggling a little,” McGinest said. “It took awhile to get my feet up under me, but I was back in 61⁄2 weeks, 7 weeks. The second time, it was 51⁄2 weeks.”

McGinest, who had his second surgery six years later for a bone chip that had hit his sciatic nerve, wasn’t rehabbing another injury when he was recovering from the work on his back. Gronkowski will also be working to get his forearm back in shape while he’s rehabbing his back.

Ultimately, McGinest said the timetable is really up to Gronkowski, along with team trainers and how cautious they want to be with him going forward.