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Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Tight end 02.10.15 at 4:19 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski was a tremendous force in 2014 for the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Rob Gronkowski was a tremendous force in 2014 for the Patriots. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the Patriots done for the season, we’ve got an end-of-the-year position-by-position breakdown of where the Patriots stand. We kicked off the series with a look at the special teams, wide receivers and running backs. Now, it’s tight ends.

Depth chart: Rob Gronkowski (82 catches, 131 targets, 1,124 yards, 12 TDs), Tim Wright (26 catches, 33 targets, 259 yards, 6 TDs), Michael Hoomaanwanui (3 catches, 6 targets, 44 yards)

Overview: What could be said about the impact of Gronkowski on the New England offense in 2014 that hasn’t already been said? After playing in just 18 of a possible 32 regular-season games in 2012 and 2013 because of health issues, he returned to become the most potent offensive option in the NFL this season, playing in 15 regular-season games (he sat out the meaningless regular-season finale against the Bills) and all three playoff contests. Along the way, he reasserted himself as an absolutely unstoppable presence. Including the playoffs, he topped 90 receiving yards in seven games, and had six or more catches in nine games and became a genuine MVP candidate.

When the numbers did dip, it reminded you of the old phrase about the only person being able to hold Michael Jordan to single-digits in scoring was Dean Smith. His impact was not just working as a pure pass-catcher, as on several occasions, teams went hard after Gronkowski with two and three defenders, which opened things up for other dependable targets in the passing game like Brandon LaFell or Julian Edelman. And his work as a blocker occasionally gets lost in the wave of statistical output — he remains one of the better blocking tight ends in the league, and did more than his share of clearing the way for the New England running game. (Just ask Sergio Brown.)

This is not to necessarily diminish the work of Wright or Hoomanawanui. Both had their share of spotlight moments: Hoomanawanui played a sizable role in the offensive line trickery that flummoxed the Ravens in the divisional playoff game, while Wright gained notoriety as the most dependable target for Tom Brady has had in the last several seasons. But when you’re talking about tight ends in New England, the conversation begins and ends with Gronkowski. Provided he continues to stay healthy, Gronkowski — who will turn 26 in May — will continue to give defensive coordinators ice-cream headaches for the next several years.

Best moment: There were several big-time moments for Gronkowski and the rest of the tight ends this past season, but we’re going to go a little far afield with this one. In the fourth quarter of the blowout loss to the Chiefs on Sept. 29, backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo found Gronkowski on a 13-yard scoring strike, a play that was fundamentally meaningless when it came to the final outcome, but a sign of things to come when it came to overall execution. Gronkowski dragged multiple defenders with him the last few yards into the end zone. It was a sign that the Gronk of old had returned — over the next five games, he had 36 catches for 516 yards and five touchdowns, providing a jolt for the New England offense.

Worst moment: Not many here, quite frankly. Maybe the relatively slow start for Gronkowski, as he clearly struggled out of the gate to regain his old form. Keeping in mind he didn’t have any preseason action, and so he basically used the first four games of the regular season as the build up. But there were some drops and — by his own admission and when judged against his own ridiculously high standard — some ragged play in the early going, who had 13 catches in the first four games of the season and didn’t find truly find his form until the late stages of the loss to Kansas City.

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Read More: Michael Hoomanawanui, position-by-position breakdown, Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright
NFL fines Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui for their roles in Super Bowl fight 02.06.15 at 2:18 pm ET
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It was the ugly fight that marred the end of one of the greatest Super Bowls in NFL history.

On Friday, the NFL handed out fines to the four players at the heart of the fisticuffs. For instigating the whole brawl, Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin was fined $10,000. This comes in addition to his ejection from the game.

Irvin was spotted grabbing the facemask of Michael Hoomanawanui in the back of the end zone with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Irvin initially got into it with Rob Gronkowski at the line of scrimmage. Also fined was Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett. He was docked $8,268 for his role in the altercation, which included tackling Gronkowski to the ground after Irvin was pushed off to the side.

Gronkowski appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on Tuesday and pretended to not be aware of throwing any punches before Kimmel showed him the tape. “I don’t think I did. No, Roger [Goodell], I did not. Oh. Ooh. Ooh. Roger, that wasn’t me. Don’t fine me. I have to buy a new party bus.”

Left with no other choice but to admit his role, Gronk explained, “Screw it, last game of the year, I’m throwing some haymakers.”

Those haymakers cost Gronkowski $8,268, the same amount his teammate Michael Hoomanawanui was fined. Gronkowski will no doubt still be able to upgrade that party bus with his Super Bowl winners’ share.

Read More: Bruce Irvin, Michael Bennett, Michael Hoomanawanui, New England Patriots
Michael Hoomanawanui: ‘You’ve got to be ready for your opportunity’ 12.03.14 at 6:59 pm ET
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Michael Hoomanawanui

Michael Hoomanawanui

Lost in the shuffle at tight end at times for the Patriots is Michael Hoomanawanui.

Rob Gronkowski and Tim Wright get most of the headlines, but Hoomanawanui has actually played 43 percent of the team’s snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

Most known for his blocking, Hoomanawanui caught a Tom Brady pass for a big 23-yard pick up in the second quarter, which led to Brandon LaFell’s first touchdown catch, and the first Patriots score of the game on Sunday in Green Bay. It was Hoomanawanui’s third catch of the season. Even though he rarely is targeted, he knows he has to be ready in case his number is called.

“You’€™ve got to be ready for your opportunity because you’€™re one play away from playing,” said Hoomanawanui on a conference call Wednesday. “Whether its five plays a week or 60 plays a week, you’€™ve got to be ready whenever your number is called and take advantage of the opportunities that are given. That’€™s how you put yourself into position to make [plays].”

It’s one thing to be ready for your opportunity, but when you only get some few, it’s important to make the most of them. This is team-wide thing, as we’ve seen it with Jonas Gray a few weeks ago against the Colts, and this past week with Brandon Bolden against the Packers.

“We’€™ve got a lot of great playmakers that are going to show up each and every week,” Hoomanawanui said. “Even more importantly, whether it’€™s me or somebody else like [Brandon] Bolden, we’€™ve just got to take those opportunities and capitalize on them like you said and make the most of them and hopefully they can help us win. That’€™s the ultimate goal no matter who it is.”

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Read More: Michael Hoomanawanui, Rob Gronkowski, Tim Wright, Tom Brady
Michael Hoomanawanui returns to practice ‘hungry’ to get back to full strength 08.18.14 at 9:07 pm ET
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Michael Hoomanawanui

Michael Hoomanawanui

FOXBORO — With only one healthy tight end on the roster for last Friday’s second preseason game with the Eagles, it was tough to watch for the other Patriots tight ends.

Rob Gronkowski, Michael Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams did not suit up — and after the team released Ben Hartsock last Thursday, it left Steve Maneri as the only healthy tight end on the roster. Gronkowski had been practicing, but not cleared for contact, while Hoomanawanui and Williams missed the entire week of practice.

After re-signing rookie tight end Justin Jones, the Patriots got another tight end back when Hoomanawanui returned to practice on Monday. While 26-year-old returned to practice, he did not take any contact. After stretching he went down to the lower fields to get some conditioning work in — all part of the process in making a full return.

“I feel good,” he said. “Being out there a little bit — with what I did do today — there’€™s not much you can simulate being out there in real time situations, but there’€™s other ways we can try and stay with it. It’€™ll take a little bit. I’€™ll get back to that.”

Hoomanawanui admitted it was hard to watch Friday night, especially seeing Maneri play almost 70 snaps after being signed by the Patriots just five days before the game.

“Especially feeling for your position, knowing what they’€™re going through, taking that many reps, but I’€™ll be out there as soon as I can and be back there with them,” Hoomanawanui said.

“It’€™s obviously disappointing. You never want to be hurt,” he added. ” You watch from the sidelines or inside, watching film is hard when you’€™re not out there. There’€™s a competitive spirit in all of us. You never want to be out. It’€™s unfortunate, but I’€™ll be back. I’€™ll be fine.”

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Read More: 2014 training camp, Michael Hoomanawanui,
Wednesday practice report: DeSean Jackson leaves early after getting ‘cleated,’ Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett get in final reps 08.06.14 at 11:13 am ET
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RICHMOND, Va. — The Patriots and Redskins held their third and final joint practice session in only shorts and shells Wednesday morning in comfortable conditions, leading into Thursday’s preseason opener at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. The only significant news of the 90-minute walkthrough came in 11-on-11 drills when DeSean Jackson appeared to get tangled with a Patriots player off the line off scrimmage.

As he has been all week, Darrelle Revis was defending Jackson and appeared to make contact. Jackson left hobbling and did not return. Redskins coach Jay Gruden opened his post-practice press conference by announcing that Jackson was “cleated” and left with an ankle injury.

“DeSean got cleated today in a walkthrough and twisted his ankle just a hair,” Gruden said. “We’ll see how he does at rehab or treatment and all that. We’ll find out.”

Asked after practice about the contact with Jackson, Revis told reporters, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

The injury is not believe to be serious but it’s likely that the Redskins will be without two of their top receivers Thursday night as Pierre Garcon is nursing a hamstring issue.

The Patriots left immediately after practice, preparing to make the trip north to Landover, Md. for Thursday’s game.

Here are some other takeaways from Wednesday morning:

Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui once again headlined the players absent at practice. Also missing were receiver Aaron Dobson, running back Brandon Bolden, defensive back Jemea Thomas, running back Tyler Gaffney, linebacker Cameron Gordon, tight end D.J. Williams, linebacker Ja’Gared Davis, offensive lineman Chris Martin, first-round pick defensive lineman Dominique Easley, receiver Jeremy Gallon and Sealver Siliga, who injured his left hand on Tuesday.

With Gronkowski, Hoomanawanui and D.J. Williams all missing practice Wednesday, expect to see a lot of rookie tight end Justin Jones out of East Carolina. To that end, Jones saw first team reps toward the end of Wednesday’s walkthrough.

Another rookie, running back James White, received significant time with the first team at the start of 11-on-11 as Tom Brady worked on offensive sets near midfield.

Another player to keep an eye on Thursday is receiver Brian Tyms, who has been getting a lot of work with Ryan Mallett and the second team. Tyms has been one of Mallett’s favorite targets this week and made a nice catch on a bullet pass in the back of the end zone in a goal line situation against the Redskins.

Defensive lineman Chris Jones, who played well during his chances last season, was playing alongside Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly as the Patriots continued to show a 3-4 front on Wednesday.

Read More: 2014 training camp, Darrelle Revis, DeSean Jackson, Jay Gruden
Rob Gronkowski: ‘I’m improving every week’ 06.01.14 at 9:35 pm ET
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MELROSE — Rob Gronkowski, quarterback?

Still limited mobility-wise thanks to an ACL/MCL injury that he sustained last Dec. 9, the Patriots tight end assumed the role of signal caller this weekend, throwing passes to hundreds of kids as part of his second annual Citi Rob Gronkowski Football Clinic at Melrose High School.

Speaking to the media for about five minutes during the camp, Gronkowski joked he might be gunning for Tom Brady‘€™s spot in the near future.

“Brady better watch out,”€ Gronkowski remarked. “He knows I’€ve got an arm, too.”

Hundreds of kids attended the event Sunday morning, as Gronkowski, along with his brothers and 50 of the area’€™s top football coaches, helped instruct the camp participants in a variety of drills.

While the two-time Pro Bowler mostly focused on the event during his address with the media, he also talked about his rehab progress and the current state of the New England tight end corps.

Gronkowski acknowledged returning to host the camp has been a great way to take his mind off of rehab.

“Yeah, definitely,” Gronkowski said. “You come out here, you have a great experience with all the kids, it just takes your mind off whatever you have going on at that time.”

Gronkowski continued: “€œI’€™m just doing what I’ve got to do. I’€™m improving every week and that’€™s all that I can ask for. I’€™m just looking forward to every single day after the day that I just did. Tomorrow is a new day, it starts a new week, and [I’€™m] just looking to improve from tomorrow and there on out.”

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Read More: ACL, Dustin Keller, Jermichael Finley, Michael Hoomanawanui
Michael Hoomanawanui ecstatic to be back: ‘No place I wanted to be more than here’ 05.22.14 at 11:56 am ET
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FOXBORO — These are exciting and extraordinarily busy times for Michael Hoomanawanui. The Patriots tight end avoided a harrowing trial in free agency by re-signing with the Patriots in March for two years and $2.4 million, with $500,000 guaranteed. He fulfilled a long-time ambition and goal by flying with the Blue Angels on a 45-minute mission. He’s become a leader in the Patriots locker room.

And he’s been going back and forth to Hawaii to prepare for his summer wedding.

Busy times indeed.

But Hoomanawanui said Thursday morning, taking time from his workout program at Gillette Stadium that he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Everything is going good. Getting ready for a wedding July 12. It’s kind of nice to be back here, get away from the planning a little bit. But it’s definitely exciting. Going to get back home this weekend, do some more planning for it. We’re almost finished and it’s a real exciting time for us,” Hoomanawanui said.

“My finance is from Hawaii and lot of my family is there, too. It should be a pretty big one, should be fun.”

But before the fun could be had, there was the business of signing back with a team that has shown faith in his skills and his underrated reliability. Was he happy to get that call from Bill Belichick in early March that the team would be bringing him back?

“Absolutely,” he said. “There’s no place I wanted to be more than here. Going into my fourth year in this offense. It definitely helps spring me into this offseason, helping the other guys and taking on a leadership role now. Going into my fifth year, sounds crazy just to say that but it’s definitely been a blessing and looking forward to an offseason of working with the younger guys and getting this thing going.

“It means the world to me for them to have the trust in me, come back re-sign me, Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick, definitely means the world to me. When I got that phone call that they wanted me back it really meant a lot and I’m just glad to be back.”

Hoomanawanui has proved to be much more than just a serviceable tight end in the Patriots’ complicated offensive scheme. He caught 12 passes in 13 games (10 starts) for 136 yards and a touchdown last season. This came after just five catches in 2012, as he learned the Patriots’ system in his first season in New England.

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Read More: Gronk, Hooman, Michael Hoomanawanui, New England Patriots
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