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Tom Brady: A healthy Aaron Hernandez is ‘very important’ heading into playoffs

12.21.11 at 10:25 am ET
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Aaron Hernandez, shown here after his TD against the Broncos, is returning to form just in time for the playoffs. (AP)

FOXBORO — The Patriots on Sunday provided what could be a very important glimpse into what could be if teams double-team and “bracket” Rob Gronkowski in the playoffs.

One large holiday-heaping sized portion of Aaron Hernandez.

Hernandez was, of course, nicked up early in the season with a knee injury. But that injury seems to have fully healed and Hernandez is showing a burst both off the line of scrimmage and in his routes, allowing him to get open just enough for Tom Brady to find him.

“It’s very important,” Brady said. “I think the health of all the guys – Aaron went through it last year when he struggled late in the year a little bit. Part of growing from your first year to your second year is taking better care of yourself. He’s certainly done that.”

A prime example of Hernandez’s newfound elusiveness came in the second quarter against Broncos when Brady dropped back and found Hernandez cutting across the back of the end zone, after Hernandez freed himself just long enough to get open.

“You look around the locker room at guys like Wes [Wes Welker], guys like Andre Carter, Jerod [Jerod Mayo], some veteran players that really know how to prepare themselves and are really professional and then you try to do like those guys do,” Brady added. “Aaron has really watched and learned and he does a great job of making sure he’s prepared every week. That’s really been a big factor in this season for us.”

With Gronkowski bracketed and getting roughed up off the line of scrimmage Sunday, Brady targeted Aaron Hernandez 11 times. How does Brady convince his receivers to deal with not knowing who is going to be “the guy” every week?

“Everybody knows that they’ll have opportunity in the game,” Brady said Tuesday. “It’s just a matter of, a guy’s open, he’s the first read on the play based on a certain coverage, he gets the ball. We don’t have a bunch of selfish guys where, ‘Throw it to me, I was triple covered, just throw it up in the air.’ If guys are open, they’ll let me know, ‘Hey, I beat him on that play,’ and if they’re not they’ll say, ‘Yeah, I couldn’t get outside of him,’ or, ‘He got his hand on me,’ or something like that. It’s a group of guys that are very unselfish, that really are happy when another guy does well.

“Believe me, no one is happier for Aaron than Rob and Wes and Chad, myself because that’s what it took. He had an opportunity to make some big plays for us in the game and he made them. Next week it may be someone else. I think collectively the skill players, the running backs, we’re all coordinated, we’re all in this together. If I’m doing my job, help get someone the ball and Wes is clearing out on a route which helps someone else gets the ball, he’s doing his job. He knows he’s going to have an opportunity where someone else is clearing out for him and he’s going to have his chance.”

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady
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