Bill Belichick on extending Aaron Hernandez: ‘We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t in support of it’
|08.27.12 at 4:30 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Bill Belichick knows how important Aaron Hernandez is to the Patriots offense going forward.
The tight end who doubles as a wide receiver has caught 124 balls in his first two seasons for the Patriots out of Florida. Thirteen of those catches have resulted in touchdowns.
He went from 45 to 79 catches last season, increasing his yardage total from 563 to 910 from 2010 to 2011.
But Belichick said Monday, on the day Hernandez agreed to a five-year, $40 million deal that includes a $12.5 million signing bonus, that Hernandez’ improvement is about a lot more than just stats.
“Aaron has improved a lot,” Belichick said. “He’s worked hard, he’s improved a lot in all phases of the game: passing game, running game, protection and his overall versatility. He’s done a good job for us.
A tight end who can run wide receiver routes is something truly unique in the NFL, making him a huge asset for the team and a big target for Tom Brady.
“Yeah, we’ve seen plenty of it. He’s a hard guy to cover,” Belichick said. “We’ve had a lot of trouble covering him defensively [in practice].”
Belichick naturally had a seat at the table as the team determined his long-term value to the Patriots. The biggest gain for the Patriots is – like with Rob Gronkowski – they have locked up a receiving weapon after only two seasons, guaranteeing he will be with the Patriots through 2018.
“Any contract that we agree to is one that we’re in support of,” Belichick said. “If we agree to a contract on a player, then we’re in support of that player, the length of the contract, the amount that we’re paying him, all the other things that go with the contract. We wouldn’t do it if we weren’t in support of it, as an organization, me personally, all of the above.”
As for having Hernandez and Gronkowski locked up for the foreseeable future?
“Again, we wouldn’t have done it if we weren’t happy with it. I’m glad it worked out,” Belichick said.
Next up, Wes Welker, who returned to Patriots practice on Monday. But after missing the mid-July deadline for a long-term extension on the franchised Welker, the Patriots will have to wait until after the season. Until then, Belichick summed up Welker’s situation with the Patriots Monday as “day-by-day.”
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