Aaron Hernandez: I’m ‘a tight end who can do a few things’
|07.27.12 at 6:28 pm ET|
FOXBORO — He is now The Other Tight End.
Aaron Hernandez has managed to string together two impressive seasons with the Patriots, catching 124 passes for 1,473 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first two years with New England. In most cities, those are the kind of numbers that get you a Pro Bowl invite.
But when it comes to the Patriots’ tight end position, everything is overshadowed by teammate Rob Gronkowski. That’s cool with Hernandez, who joked about how he had a ‘more private’ than Gronkowski. While his teammate was on the red carpet at the ESPY’s, on reality dating shows and posing nude for the cover of ESPN: The Magazine (‘I didn’t take that great a look at it. But I wouldn’t mind being swole,’ chuckled Hernandez), Hernandez spent the offseason out of sight, out of mind.
‘I just chill. I don’t pay much attention to that stuff,’ laughed Hernandez when asked about the Summer of Gronk. ‘I’m sure he was having fun, and I definitely get laughs when people try and tell me about some of the stuff. But I’m more laid back and chill and relaxing.’
As for his thoughts on his fellow tight end, Hernandez said he doesn’t expect last year’s ankle injury to have much of an impact on his game going forward.
‘He’s still a beast. He’s Gronk,’ explained Hernandez. ‘He’s going to make plays, especially when you have a good quarterback like Tom [Brady] throwing you the ball. Tom is going to put it in the right place. When you’re 6-foot-7 with a 7-something arm reach, not many people will be able to get their hands there to stop you.’
While Gronkowski continues to grab the lion’s share of the headlines, it’s Hernandez who has built a rep throughout the league as a versatile threat who can beat you several different ways. In his two seasons with the Patriots, the Florida product has lined up in the slot, split wide, flush against the tackle or even in the backfield. (According to Pro Football Focus, he was lined up as wide receiver on more than 70 percent of offense snaps last season, and was stretching with the receivers on Thursday before practice.) And on Thursday, he even worked as an occasional punt returner.
Small wonder that when asked to describe himself, he called himself ‘a tight end who can do a few things.’
‘I love being able to have the ball in my hands and make plays,’ he said when asked about working as a return man. ‘It’s another opportunity. Hopefully, I get another opportunity to be back there, but Julian Edelman does a great job and we have other people like Wes [Welker] to step in. I just love football and love making plays, and if they out me back there, hopefully, I can do something.’