|Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez at No. 77 in ‘NFL Network’ players poll||05.10.13 at 12:11 am ET|
Aaron Hernandez was voted the 77th best player in the league in the latest edition of the NFL Network’s “Top 100″ players poll.
The 23-year-old tight end, who was the second Patriot to appear on the list — guard Logan Mankins was 82nd — is making his first appearance on the list. Last season. he had 51 catches for 483 yards and six touchdowns while working in a limited capacity because of injuries. For his career, he has 175 catches for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns in his three seasons in the NFL.
|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.”
|Aaron Hernandez: ‘Hard to replace a freak of nature’ in Rob Gronkowski||01.13.13 at 11:23 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots have been through this before. Rob Gronkowski is likely lost for the playoffs after re-breaking his left forearm in Sunday’s 41-28 win over the Texans in an AFC divisional game at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s hard to replace a player like him because he’s a freak of nature,” Aaron Hernandez said afterward. “Everyone has to step up and everyone has to keep making plays so we can keep it rolling.”
Hernandez was one Patriots offensive player to step up, contributing with a 40-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter that led to a touchdown that put the Patriots up, 24-13, and put the Patriots on their way. Hernandez finished with six catches for 85 yards.
“It definitely helps me out because so much attention is on him,” Hernandez said. “But like I said, everyone has to step up. It’s a big loss and you can’t replace a player like him.”
Also, stepping up after the first-quarter injury to Gronk was Wes Welker, with eight catches and 131 yards, 120 of them coming in the first half. Shane Vereen stepped up with a record-tying performance as he had three touchdowns (two receiving, one rushing).
“He’s done it in practice and he’s the person that works hard and does his job,” Hernandez said of Vereen. “When his number was called, he made a play and showed what type of player he is tonight.”
Now, it’s on to the Ravens and a rematch of last season’s AFC championship.
“It’s an honor,” Hernandez said. “We still have one more to go to get to the big dance. So we’ve got to keep playing and come to play next week.”
|Quick Hits on Patriots rout of Texans with Mike Petraglia and Chris Price||12.11.12 at 1:17 am ET|
FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price break down the Patriots’ 42-14 demolition of the Texans on Monday night football at Gillette Stadium.
Petraglia and Price talk about Tom Brady, who threw for four touchdowns, two to Aaron Hernandez, Vince Wilfork as an NFL defensive player of the year candidate and what the win means in the big picture for the 10-3 Patriots going forward in the AFC playoffs.
|Poll: Who was MVP of Patriots’ division-clinching win?||12.02.12 at 4:38 pm ET|
Wes Welker had 12 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Aaron Hernandez had eight grabs for 97 yards. Trevor Scott had a strip-sack and finished with two sacks. Stevan Ridley finished with 71 yards on 19 carries and was huge on the game-clinching drive.
Tom Brady was sacked four times but still finished 24-of-40 for 238 yards while Ridley went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season. Welker finished with 12 catches on 18 targets and 103 yards, his 28th career 100-yard receiving game and his 16th with at least 10 catches. Hernandez added eight grabs on 13 targets and 97 yards.
|Josh McDaniels on return of Aaron Hernandez: ‘It was certainly good to get Aaron back’||11.23.12 at 5:59 pm ET|
The Patriots were able to get an important offensive option back in the fold Thursday night when Aaron Hernandez returned to the lineup for the first time in a month. The tight end, who has been hobbled by injury since going down with an ankle issue in a Week 2 loss to the Cardinals, did come back for a couple of games last month, but appeared to suffer a setback and was shelved again until Thursday night.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hernandez played 57 of the Patriots’ 70 offensive snaps on Thursday, and finished the game with two catches for 36 yards.
“It was certainly good to have Aaron back, and I was pleased with the amount of snaps he was able to play,” said Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on a conference call with reporters Friday. “I thought what was interesting was that for being off for such an extended period, I thought he hung in there and tried to fight through it and give us everything he could give us.
“It’s great to have a guy like that back. It’s a guy who can do a lot of things with the ball. He made some key plays for us last night and hopefully we can build on that as we go down the stretch here with Aaron as he plays more and more each week. I thought that was good.”
With Rob Gronkowski expected to be sidelined for the next month or so with a broken arm, all of the tight ends will see an uptick in playing time. That includes veteran Daniel Fells, who has been on and off the field over the course of the last month or so. Against the Jets, he also played 57 of the Patriots’ 70 offensive snaps. And while he didn’t show up all that much in the box score (one catch on two targets for 24 yards), McDaniels also lauded Fells’ performance.
“Daniel definitely did a nice job of his role in the game plan,” McDaniels said. “We asked a lot of different things of Daniel last night. Asked him to do some different things in the running game. Asked him to pass protect at times and made a big catch there for a big chunk gain there in the third quarter, I believe.
“We have a lot of tight ends that are capable of doing different things. The way we played them last night, we had two of them on the field, predominantly, most of the game. I thought those guys gave us some protection and allowed us to play the game we wanted to play.”
Here are a few other highlights from McDaniels Q&A with the media on Friday:
FOXBORO — Patriots coach Bill Belichick knew this week would be a challenge. A late afternoon game on Sunday against the upstart Colts and Andrew Luck followed by a night game four days later against their AFC East rival that pushed them to OT in October.
Well, 108 points later, the Patriots went from 6-3 to 8-3 and in complete control of the AFC East, all but assuring their 10th division title in 12 seasons. In the afterglow of Thursday’s 49-19 feast on the Jets at MetLife Stadium, Belichick gave credit to his players for their work on a tight schedule.
“As we talked about [Thursday] night, I think after going through the film that it was really apparent that the preparation that our players put into this game certainly helped us with our overall execution,” Belichick said in a Friday afternoon conference call. ” I thought we had a real good three days, four days of preparation for the game – a lot of concentration, focus, attentiveness, attention to detail and all those things came out in different aspects of the game. So, I’ll give credit to the players, the way they prepared and performed. I thought we had good energy last night.
“Obviously the big plays in the game really tilted the game strongly in our favor so that was important. We’ll try to take the next day or so to kind of get caught up and get re-organized. We never even had a chance to spend much time at all on the Indianapolis game so we’ll need to catch up a little bit on that and of course the Jet game from last night, as quickly as possible and put that behind us and turn the page onto Miami. It’s good to get a couple wins over the Jets and certainly it was good to get the bonus points from the turnovers on defense and the kicking game, not only turnovers but to end up with significant points on the board. Those plays are always especially good to see because it’s hard to count on them. When you get them, it really shifts the game quickly.”
Belichick’s sign of gratitude was to give the players three days off, in essence giving them a second bye weekend in four weeks. The players don’t have to report to Foxboro until midday Monday to get ready for the Dolphins in South Florida on Dec. 2.
“It was good to see us respond very positively to the challenge of going down and playing the Jets on Thanksgiving night. But there’s a new challenge every week,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to respond to future challenges in the same positive way, by using the same methods: working hard, being attentive, putting extra things into it; doing extra things at this time of year can really pay off and make a difference.
“I hope that we can all see the benefit of doing that, in terms of what the results were and hopefully going forward we can build on this and get that same type of preparation and attention to the little things that will make a difference for us. I hope this will be a good…we always talk about it, it isn’t like we don’t ever do it, I just thought this was doing everything [with] the timeframe and all that we were working with, that it was a very good effort by the players to respond. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it again.”
Here is the remainder of Belichick’s Q and A with reporters on Friday afternoon: Read the rest of this entry »
2013 PATRIOTS DRAFT PICKS
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