July 27, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez during the training camp at the team practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-US PRESSWIRE
Like Gronkowski, Hernandez's game was taken to a whole new level in 2011. The should-have-been Pro Bowler caught 79 passes for 910 yards and seven touchdowns. While some refer to him as the "other tight end", Hernandez would be "the" tight end on just about every other NFL roster.
But at Patriots practice on Friday, Hernandez wasn't just getting reps at tight end--he was getting some work as a kick returner. Wait, a tight end... as a returner? What? Well, he's actually was a kickoff returner during his high school playing days. Hernandez just sees himself as a "tight end that can do a few things."
"I love being able to have the ball in my hands and make plays. That's another opportunity," he said of his work as a returner, which he hadn't done since his high school days in Connecticut.
"Hopefully I get another opportunity to be back there, but Julian Edelman does a great job. We have other people like Wes [Welker] to step in. I just love football and love making plays. If they put me back there, hopefully I can do something."
When asked about his partner-in-crime Rob Gronkowski, who underwent offseason ankle surgery, Hernandez didn't seem to worried about him shaking off the rust.
"He's still a beast. He's Gronk," explained Hernandez. "He's going to make plays, especially when you have a good quarterback like Tom throwing you the ball. Tom is going to put it in the right place. When you're 6-foot-7 with a 7-something arm reach, not many people will be able to get their hands there to stop you."