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BOSTON (CBS) – The New England Patriots dynamic tight end duo was cut in half on Sunday, with Aaron Hernandez leaving their home opener against the Arizona Cardinals with a right ankle injury.
Hernandez did not return to New England’s20-18 loss after being helped off the field in the first quarter following teammate Julian Edelman rolling onto the ankle. Hernandez was blocking for Edelman on the play, and limped to the Patriots’ locker room with a trainer under each shoulder.
X-Rays were negative on the ankle, and Hernandez was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain following the game. He was seen in a walking boot and on crutches as he left the Patriots locker room Sunday night.
Head coach Bill Belichick did not offer an update following the loss, but the Pats will likely be without Hernandez for 4-6 weeks.
“We have an offense with him in the game and without him in the game,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “I’m sure he’s not going to be the only one we lose at some point, but we still have to figure out a way to move the ball and score more than 18 points.”
“Aaron is in there almost every play. It changes quite a bit,” Welker said of Hernandez’ absence. “He’s a great player and makes so many plays for us… He’s a tough guy to matchup against and I think everybody across the boards has to go out and make some plays in his place.”
Hernandez had six receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown for New England in their Week 1 win over the Tennessee Titans. He was targeted once but did not have a reception against the Cardinals prior to the injury.
The versatile Hernandez is a big part of the New England offense, with the third-year tight end hauling in 130 passes for 1,532 yards and 14 touchdowns in his career. Hernandez signed a six-year, $54 million extension with the Patriots prior to this season.