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Aaron Hernandez: The new NFL practice rules are ‘saving me’

08.08.12 at 5:54 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez knows exactly what he is in today’s NFL.

He’s a tight end who uses his speed and quickness off the line of scrimmage to separate and get open like a wide receiver for Tom Brady.

He’s not a physical, bruising tight end like his teammate Rob Gronkowski. Critics would say that’s part of the problem for Hernandez, who has missed four games in his first two seasons due to various injuries, while starting only 19 of his 28 games.

For that reason, said Hernandez after Wednesday’s glorified walk-through, he needs to conserve and preserve his body. Enter the new NFL. Thanks to last summer’s 10-year CBA, there are no longer “two-a-day” practices allowed by NFL teams.

“With all the new rules, I love it,” Hernandez said. “It’s saving me. Two practices beats up on your body. Bill [Bill Belichick] regardless is gonna find a way to beat up on us, so regardless we’re gonna be tired.”

Hernandez has not look fatigued in this camp. As a matter of fact, he has looked as sharp as any receiver Brady has thrown to in the first two weeks of camp. He has been one of four go-to receivers for Brady, along with Rob Gronkowski, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker.

But as great as the work has been, Hernandez knows there’s plenty of room for improvement, especially when it comes to communication with the quarterback. That’s why when there are minor breakdowns like last week – Brady calls Hernandez over for a lengthy discussion – Hernandez said the offense is still a work in progress.

“I’d say we’re still at the beginning,” he said. “We gotta keep getting our timing down, and he’s gotta start reading me, and I gotta read him and know what he wants. He has to know what he wants me to do and stuff like that. But we keep improving everyday and we’re gonna get on point and we’re gonna come out this season firing.”

At one point Wednesday morning, Brady and Hernandez hooked up on four straight completions during 11-on-11 drills.

That type of production shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise since Hernandez had 79 catches last year, including seven touchdowns, for 910 yards. That’s an average of 11.5 yards per reception. That followed up a rookie season that included 45 catches for 563 yards and six touchdowns.

Not bad for a guy that gets overshadowed by the Gronk and another tight end on the field Wednesday, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham.

“Good player, obviously,” Hernandez said of Graham. “The whole league knows about him, and that’s about it. We’re all good players, we’re all different and all got different qualities, but I say, it is what it is.

“I say we’re different players and we do different things. [Graham] and Gronk are similar in their playing type and I have a different type of way I approach defenders and approach the game. I think we all have different qualities that are real good.”

Read More: 2012 Training Camp, Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Brandon Lloyd
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