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BOSTON (CBS) – For New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, his New Year’s resolution is pretty simple.
“Become a better blocker,” Hernandez told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton for Patriots GameDay.
While Rob Gronkowski is setting tight end records for touchdowns, Hernandez has quietly had a strong season as well, catching 72 passes for 772 yards and six touchdowns. His favorite play of the season so far is his game-winning touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6, when he caught the go-ahead score with just 22 seconds left.
He and Gronkowski both bring different things to the table, but together they form one of the best tight end tandems in the NFL.
“We love each other,” Hernandez said of his relationship with Gronk. “We’re both outgoing, we both have a great sense of humor. We’re always laughing and having fun. What’s crazy is most of the people at the same position are competing with each other, but we’re really not competing because we’re kind of two different players. We work off each other in the game. It’s hard for defenses to decide how to cover us, because it’s not just one of us, it’s two of us.”
“I’m more of the athletic tight end, he can really do everything. He is a complete tight end; he can block, run off the ball, punish some D-Ends, he can run routes against whoever he wants to and catch balls. He can do it all,” said Hernandez. “Me, I’m more of the receiver part of the game; I do more of the athletic stuff like a receiver. But I am 240 lbs, so I am considered a tight end.”
Hernandez thanks his brother, D.J., for helping him become the player he is today. D.J. played quarterback and receiver at UConn, where Hernandez originally committed to play before heading to Florida to play alongside Tim Tebow.
“He helped me throughout my life,” Hernandez said of D.J., who now coaches at Brown. “I got my drive and determination from him. I was one of the kids that always tried to have fun but was naturally gifted. My brother was naturally gifted, but he worked a lot harder at things; I was more the ‘have fun kid.’ Then when I started following him and seeing the success he had, I realized maybe I should follow his path and succeed as well.”
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Hernandez also credits Tebow for helping him learn routes and how to read defenses. That has gone a long way with his current quarterback, Tom Brady, who will let his guys know if they aren’t in the right spot at the right time.
“He’ll get on you but he’s very optimistic. He stays positive all the time,” he said of Brady. “It’s not like he brings you down. He’ll get in your face and say ‘I’m counting on you, you need to be there.’ Or ‘straigten up.’ But he won’t be like ‘you’re horrible, you don’t know what you’re doing.’”
“You won’t be out there probably after that play if you run the wrong route. With Tom you have to do everything the right way because he’s counting on you,” said Hernandez. “He’s not always looking where he is about to throw the ball, so when he comes to fire it you need to be where you’re supposed to be. It’s also very important to know what he’s thinking. If there is an inside-leverage defender and he wants you to push inside at him and then run out, that’s what he wants. If you were thinking differently and didn’t know you were supposed to attack that guy, you might be in a different area.”
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With just one game remaining in the regular season, Hernandez said the Patriots are still growing and have yet to hit their potential.
“I think we’re a very good football team and we still haven’t reached our potential. I don’t think we should yet; we should keep getting better and reach our potential late in the season when it gets rough.”
Tune in after the Patriots-Bills game for all the reaction and analysis on the Postgame Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub and Patriots Fifth Quarter on MyTV38.