Aaron Hernandez knows he’ll have to pick up where Rob Gronkowski left off
|01.16.13 at 9:07 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Aaron Hernandez will have more on his plate going forward.
Without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup for the rest of the postseason, Hernandez will draw more targets. But he said Wednesday that when you’re talking big picture, it’s going to take a total team effort to try and pick up the slack for his fallen teammate — like they did when Gronkowski missed a sizable portion of regular-season games down the stretch.
“You can’t replace him, but we all have to step up,’ he said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a huge loss and everyone knows that, but we still have games to win. Everyone has to step it up and we have to do as much as we can do individually to fill his void.”
Hernandez, who struggled with injuries of his own over the course of the 2012 season (he missed the Patriots-Ravens matchup during the regular season because of an ankle injury), has been able to rebound nicely from his time on the shelf — the Florida product had 24 catches over the final four games of the regular season, including a season-high 10 receptions in a Dec. 16 loss to the Niners in Foxboro. He ended the season with 51 catches on 84 targets for 483 yards and five touchdowns.
However, he knows that with Gronkowski on the sidelines, he’ll draw more attention from the Ravens than ever before.
“It makes it a little bit more difficult, but we have a great quarterback that is going to get us in the right play,” he said. “When you have a quarterback and great offensive coordinators, they put us in the right situation to make plays, and it’s our job to make a play.”
Hernandez will have an opportunity in Sunday’s divisional playoff game to go up against a linebacker in Ray Lewis who has carved out a rep as one of the finest in the history of the game. Although he’s not what he once was, Hernandez knows that you still have to be mindful of what he can bring to the field.
“He’s a great player and known for being one of the best linebackers to play the game. And yes, you are aware of him when he is on the field,” Hernandez said. “But like I said, we just have to play our game and do what we have to do. We have to focus on our play and not really the other defensive players. He is a hitter and a great player. He reads offenses and catches calls. You have to know where he is on the field.”
In the end, Hernandez said that if the Patriots want to advance to their second Super Bowl in as many years, it’s going to come down to execution.
“They have a good defense and we’ve played against a lot of good defenses,” he said. “We just have to play our game and keep doing what we do.”
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