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Patriots ready to start living life without Rob Gronkowski

11.19.12 at 8:06 pm ET
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FOXBORO — With Rob Gronkowski sidelined for what appears to be the next four to eight weeks, it was time to trot out one of the most well-worn cliches in the football handbook around Gillette Stadium on Monday: Next man up.

While there weren’€™t a whole lot of players interested in speaking with the media in the wake of Gronkowski’€™s injury on Monday, the ones who did simply shrugged their shoulders, saying that it’€™s all part of the game.

‘€œHe’€™s going to do his best to get back as fast as possible,’€ linebacker Rob Ninkovich said of Gronkowski, who reportedly underwent surgery at Mass. General Hospital on Monday. ‘€œThat’€™s the way football goes sometimes — you just have to deal with that. We’€™ll just move on and whenever he’€™s back, he’€™s back.

‘€œAny good football team has to [deal] with injuries throughout the year, you know?’€ he added. ‘€œThat’€™s the case right now for us. We’€™ll do like we have in the past. We’€™ll keep going and move on and the next guy will step in and we’€™ll be all right.’€

As far as how it affects the offense — and the tight ends in particular — Aaron Hernandez said Monday night he’€™s confident the Patriots tight ends will be able to pick up the slack.

‘€œThe way this program is, the way [coach] Bill [Belichick] makes us become the players we become, we all have confidence and we all know we have to come to play every game, regardless,’€ Hernandez said after practice on Monday. ‘€œAnd in the NFL, people go down and other people have to step up.

‘€œEveryone has to step up and make plays, and follow the game plan. I’€™m sure we’€™ll be all right,’€ he added. ‘€œObviously, it’€™s tough. Obviously, he’€™s 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.’€

‘€œWe’€™re confident in everybody that’€™s on our team,’€ Ninkovich said. ‘€œWe all work together every day to help one another. That’€™s just the way it goes.’€

As for the idea that the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick may have made a mistake by using a valuable player like Gronkowski as a blocker on something as innocuous as an extra point late in the game, the players aren’€™t buying it.

‘€œThat’€™s football,’€ Ninkovich said. ‘€œYou’€™re playing football for four quarters, and that’€™s the way things go. You can’€™t really second-guess anything. That’€™s just the way football is. People get hurt. You just have to deal with it.’€

‘€œI’€™m not a coach in the NFL, nor will I ever be,’€ said Hernandez with a smile. ‘€œBut I’€™m sure the coaches knew what they were doing.’€

One of the things that will help the Patriots put things in the rearview mirror faster is the fact that New England is operating on a short week, and will have to turn their attention to the Jets as it prepares for a Thanksgiving Night game in New Jersey with a divisional rival.

‘€œIt’€™s pretty quick,’€ said Ninkovich when asked about the four-day turnaround. ‘€œObviously, you’€™re still a little sore from playing a day ago, so just have to do your best to move on and get ready to prepare for the next day for the team we’€™re about to play in a couple of days. It is definitely quick, but it’€™s nothing that we haven’€™t done before.

‘€œWe’€™ve moved on. We’€™re playing the Jets, a good team — a good, physical team,’€ he added. ‘€œWe’€™re going to be ready to go play those guys.’€

Read More: Aaron Hernandez, Bill Belichick, Rob Gronkowski, Rob Ninkovich
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