|Tom Brady (left) had Aaron Hernandez at his side during practice yesterday. (Bill Greene/Globe Staff)|
Hernandez back on practice field
FOXBOROUGH - Aaron Hernandez took the nonverbal approach yesterday when he attempted to describe how his left knee was feeling. The Patriots tight end, who was inactive the last two games after spraining his medial collateral ligament against San Diego Sept. 18, groaned loudly.
Asked if that was any indication of how his knee felt when he got up yesterday morning to report to Gillette Stadium in preparation for Sunday’s home game against the Jets, Hernandez acknowledged as much with an even louder groan.
Evidently, Hernandez did not want to leave anything to interpretation when he finally spoke up and replied, “Feel pretty good. Just trying to get healthy, day by day.’’
Although he was spotted in the locker room before practice wearing a knee brace, Hernandez took a positive step when he returned to the field.
Hernandez was joined in his return by defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who has practiced once each of the last two weeks but has been inactive the last two games with a back injury, and defensive lineman Mike Wright, who missed the last three games after suffering a concussion in the opener Sept. 12 at Miami.
All three players were spotted during the media-access portion of the full-pads practice, and took part in a limited capacity.
Before practice, Hernandez was asked how frustrating it was to sit out the last two games after starting the season with 14 catches for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
“It’s always frustrating [to be injured] when you love the game,’’ he said. “But I’ll say again, I’m just taking it day by day and can’t wait to get back.’’
The Patriots were left to play their last two games with Rob Gronkowski as the lone tight end on the roster.
Was it a concern to Hernandez to see the team succeed without him, and with just one tight end?
“Not really, because he’s a beast,’’ Hernandez said of Gronkowski, who has eight catches for 124 yards and two TDs during Hernandez’s absence. “He can do so many things that you only really need one.’’
Although he was more focused on getting healthy, Hernandez did not bite when a New York reporter asked him about the prospects of facing Jets shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis.
“Well, I think it would be a good matchup,’’ he said.
When asked if he liked his chances against Revis, Hernandez smiled.
“You could change that into a story now, so . . . ’’ Hernandez said, recognizing the attempt to bait him. Hernandez then offered another loud groan.
Get well later Vince Wilfork didn’t mince words when asked if wanted to see Jets center Nick Mangold, out the last two games with a right ankle sprain, return on Sunday.
“No, I don’t,’’ Wilfork said with a chuckle. “He’s probably one of the best offensive linemen in the game. I mean, he’s definitely a leader on that team. I’m pretty sure they would love for him to play because I think he gives them a spark.
“There’s absolutely a difference when he’s in and when he’s not in. So, I think they do get their leadership on the line from him. That’s why I expect, for him to be in there to get things going and get his team off to a good start.’’
In a 34-17 loss at Baltimore last Sunday, the Jets’ offensive line struggled greatly without Mangold, as quarterback Mark Sanchez was sacked twice.
“Whoever they have in there, it’s going to be up to us to go out and execute,’’ Wilfork said. “Each week that’s one thing we want to do, we want to be able to execute our game plan. One thing we’re not doing is looking at the games and saying, ‘They’re going to do this, they’re going to do that.’ We know the Jets better than that. I think they’re going to come out and try to establish the run game [after the Ravens held them to 150 total yards, 38 rushing]. They’re going to play hard. They’re a well-coached football team. We have to be on our p’s and q’s at all times on Sunday.’’
Equal footing Gronkowski, who was lauded for his blocking in last Sunday’s victory at Oakland, was asked if he delighted more in scoring a touchdown or executing a pancake block. “There’s always time for both of them,’’ he said. “If you have a lot of touchdowns, it’s always fun to go out and get a pancake. If you’re blocking the whole game, you’d like to get a [TD] pass every now and then. I enjoy them both equally.’’ . . . Julian Edelman (ankle), Jerod Mayo (knee), Sebastian Vollmer (back), and Danny Woodhead (ankle) did not practice. Kyle Arrington (chest), Josh Barrett (thumb/hamstring), Leigh Bodden (groin), Patrick Chung (hand), Ras-I Dowling (hip), Shaun Ellis (knee), Gary Guyton (hamstring), and Kyle Love (ankle) were limited in practice . . . Practice squad running back Eric Kettani was denied leave from the Navy and told to report today for active duty in Jacksonville, Fla., his agent Edward Brown said. Kettani, who is in his first NFL season, petitioned to stay with the Patriots, but was declined due to “time of war,’’ Brown said. Kettani signed with the Patriots in May 2009 after playing for the US Naval Academy from 2005-08. He was placed on the reserve/military list in 2009 and was activated in July. Kettani wrote “God Bless America!’’ via Twitter last night.