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BOSTON (CBS) – Aaron Hernandez is not your average tight end, with the combination of tight end’s size and a wide receiver’s speed.
Now the Patriots can add “running back” to his resume.
Hernandez was New England’s leading rusher in Saturday’s 45-10 playoff win over the Broncos, carrying the ball five times for 61 yards.
It was a 43-yard breakout on his first carry that set the tone for the game, giving the Broncos another wrinkle in the Patriots offense to try and iron out.
They couldn’t, and Hernandez had a blast lining up in the back field.
“I love running back. I hope [coach Bill Belichick] keeps letting me do it,” he said after the game. “Doesn’t matter, whatever I can do to help this team to get to that next game.”
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“You see all those receivers on the field and you’re not really thinking too much about the running game defensively, so we tried to pop a couple runs in there just to keep them honest,” said Belichick. “We thought they might be thinking – I mean, obviously, they’re thinking pass – we threw the ball most every time, but we tried to get a couple runs going there. And Aaron made a good run. It looked like he broke a tackle and he did a nice job handling the ball there.”
“That was unbelievable, his runs and everything. A tight end at running back just carrying the ball 40-yards, 10-yards, I mean that’s crazy,” said fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski.
“What Aaron added today, being able to run the ball out of the backfield, he’s been able to do that in different situations throughout the course of the year,” said Patriots guard Brian Waters. “We’ve gotten him in on some reverses and pitches and things like that. He just adds another weapon.”
Hernandez also caught four passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.
There was some cause for concern in the fourth quarter, after Hernandez took a hard hit on a goal-line run. After gaining a couple of yards, Hernandez lost the ball and was hit hard by the Broncos. The Patriots did recover the ball, but Hernandez had to leave the game and did not return.
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The team listed his with a head injury, raising the fear Hernandez would have to sit out next week’s AFC Championship game.
But Hernandez was at his locker after the game, and did not seem too concerned about missing out on the biggest game of the season.
“I feel great,” he said with a smile.
Whether he goes out as a tight end, running back, fullback or all of the above, we’ll have to wait and see what Belichick has up his sleeves.
Tune in the Patriots in the AFC Championship game Sunday, January 22 at 3pm on 98.5 The Sports Hub and WBZ-TV.