Gronkowski is ‘‘one of the best players in the league,’’ Hernandez said. ‘‘It puts pressure on everybody. Not just one player can just replace him.’’
The other tight ends on the roster — Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui and Visanthe Shiancoe — have a total of four receptions. Shiancoe has played just two games since being activated off the injured reserve list. Fells was healthy but inactive and Shiancoe had no catches against the Colts.
‘‘He gets better every time he goes on the field,’’ Belichick said of Shiancoe. ‘‘He has a chance to run the plays in our system, which he missed the majority of training camp being able to do that.’’
Shiancoe is not unfamiliar with a starting role. In his 10th season in the league, Shiancoe came into his own as a Viking. After four ho-hum seasons with the Giants, Shiancoe made the most of his time with Minnesota, topping 500 yards receiving three times in five seasons.
In 2008-09 and 2009-10, in fact, he caught 18 total touchdown passes.
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