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.
‘He’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. ‘That’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.
‘Any good football team has to [deal] with injuries throughout the year, you know?’ he added. ‘That’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.
‘The 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. ‘And in the NFL, people go down and other people have to step up.
‘Everyone has to step up and make plays, and follow the game plan. I’m sure we’ll be all right,’ he added. ‘Obviously, 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.’
‘We’re confident in everybody that’s on our team,’ Ninkovich said. ‘We 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.
‘That’s football,’ Ninkovich said. ‘You’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.’
‘I’m not a coach in the NFL, nor will I ever be,’ said Hernandez with a smile. ‘But 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.
‘It’s pretty quick,’ said Ninkovich when asked about the four-day turnaround. ‘Obviously, 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.
‘We’ve moved on. We’re playing the Jets, a good team — a good, physical team,’ he added. ‘We’re going to be ready to go play those guys.’