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BOSTON (CBS) – The mantra of the New England Patriots is a simple one: “do your job.”
If every player does their job, the team works like a well-oiled machine and they get results like their 59-24 blowout over the Colts on Sunday.
But things will be a little more difficult for the rest of the regular season with tight end Rob Gronkowski sidelined 4-8 weeks with a broken forearm. Losing a player like Gronkowski – one of, if not the best tight ends in the NFL – puts pressure on the rest of the offense to step up. But the “next man up” mentality is something the Patriots have built themselves on for years, and this bump in the road will be no different.
“The way this program is, the way [coach] Bill [Belichick] makes us become the players that we become is we all have confidence and we all know we have to come to play every game regardless,” tight end Aaron Hernandez said Monday from the Patriots locker room. “And in the NFL, people go down and other people have to step up.”
“[Gronkowski is] one of the best players in the league, but we have a lot of players and everyone has to step up to fill the void,” he said.
Hernandez, who has missed the last three games with a lingering ankle injury he suffered back in Week 2, said he’s feeling “pretty good,” but would only give a “we’ll see” when asked if he would be playing Thursday night against the Jets.
Hernandez’ return will go a long way in the Patrtiots filling that void left by Gronkowski’s absence, but he knows it will take a full group effort.
“It puts pressure on everybody. Not just one player can replace him,” he said of his dynamic teammate.
In addition to Hernandez, the Patriots will call upon tight ends Vinsanthe Shiancoe, who made his Patriots against Buffalo, Michael Hoomanawanui, who has been used more of a fullback role, as well as Daniel Fells, who was inactive against Indianapolis.
The double-teams that Gronkowski gets on nearly every play will now be spread around the field, so it will just make life tougher on Tom Brady. But he has other guys that can step up as well. Receiver Julian Edelman did it all against Indy, hauling in five catches and a touchdown to go with his punt return, and will likely see his role in the offense expand even more. Wes Welker will continue to be Wes Welker, and expect to see a bigger emphasis on the rejuvenated New England run game with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
Hernandez admits the absence of Gronkowski will lead to some changes in the Patriots offensive attack, but if the team works together they can temper the storm until their All-World tight end gets back.
“Everyone has to step up,” he repeated. “Whatever the change is, we just have to make plays and fill that void we’re going to be missing.”
Tune in to the Patriots-Jets Thanksgiving night clash on 98.5 The Sports Hub at 8:20 p.m.! Pregame coverage begins at 5 p.m. with three hours of postgame coverage following the game.