FOXBORO -- Aaron Hernandez said Monday night he's confident the Patriots tight ends will be able to pick up the slack in the wake of Rob Gronkowski's arm injury, which likely will have the big tight end on the sidelines for the next 4-8 weeks.
"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."
Hernandez, who hasn't been 100 percent since he suffered an ankle injury in a Week 2 loss to the Cardinals, has been close to returning the last few weeks but has yet to play in a game since an Oct. 21 win over the Jets in Foxboro. His return certainly would be a boost for the New England offense, particularly with Gronkowski on the sideline.
The 23-year-old, who has 17 catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns on the year, said Monday he's "feeling pretty good," but he doesn't buy into the idea that with Gronkowski on the shelf, that puts more pressure on him to get back on the field sooner.
"It puts pressure on everybody. Not just one player can just replace him. Everyone has to step up," he said. "It'll change some things, [but] like I said, everyone will have to step up. And whatever the change is, we have to make plays and fill that void we'll be missing.
"We have a lot of great players. Like I said a couple of times already, people have to step up because we're going to be missing a great player. Everyone has to step up that much more."
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