FOXBORO, Mass. — Aaron Hernandez returned to the
Patriots offense on Sunday after a three-week hiatus, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. But
thoughts on the tight end's injured ankle weren't always so rosy, especially
"Broke," Hernandez said with a look of relief when
asked of his initial reaction to injuring the ankle. "But it healed and
I'm better now."
Hernandez suffered a low ankle sprain in the Patriots' Week 2
loss when teammate Julian Edelman rolled up on it while Hernandez sustained a
block on the outside. His time away from the team was tough, and it wasn't made
any easier by a close loss in Baltimore.
"I wasn't really on the sidelines, I was at home,"
Hernandez said of where he spent his weeks away. "But obviously it was
tough, especially when you live to play football. When you've been doing it
your whole life and you want to help the team. That's the reason I came back
The original timeline for his recovery was slated between
four and six weeks, but the 22-year-old worked hard in his rehabilitation and
was back on the practice field way ahead of schedule. He was a bit hesitant
upon his immediate return, but as he got more reps he also gained more
"You get nervous at times," Hernandez said of his
ankle. "It's all about confidence. I got more practice time in and more
time cutting off the ankle — because I cut a lot. So I gained some confidence,
and it made me comfortable going out and playing the game."
His confidence definitely got a significant boost on Sunday
when he caught six balls for 30 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the
Seahawks. And now that he's back in a rhythm, Hernandez is ready to continue
"I felt pretty good. It was good to get back out there
and help the team," Hernandez said. "Just happy to be back out there
and know that I could get the ball and help them out. It made me happy."
Help is something the Patriots could use right about now,
and a healthy Hernandez should be able to offer some assistance. Which is a lot
more than he or the team could have hoped for a month ago.