Kellen Winslow's Unexpected Release From Patriots May Signal Imminent Return for Aaron HernandezKellen Winslow
's stay in New England didn't last very long. But
the loss may also mean a big gain for the Patriots.

After an uneventful debut for the veteran tight end on
Sunday night against the Ravens, Winslow asked for and was granted his release
on Thursday afternoon, according to

Winslow was initially signed to help ease the blow left from
tight end Aaron Hernandez's injury but with Hernandez, a younger version of the
29-year-old Winslow, seemingly recovering more quickly than expected, Winslow's role was
likely to shift.

Winslow's recurring knee issues, stemming from his 2005
motorcycle accident, may have played a role in seeking his release, but the
likely lack of playing time may have also forced Winslow to seek other
opportunities. While Winslow's loss certainly stings for the moment, forcing
the Patriots to adjust the offense on the fly, it could also mean seeing
Hernandez back in pads much sooner than expected.

Hernandez, who suffered an ankle sprain against the
Cardinals on Sept. 16, was expected to miss four to six weeks with the injury. But
the 22-year-old may be back sooner, as he was seen
walking through the Patriots locker room without the help of crutches or a
walking boot on Wednesday.

While Winslow offered some protection and flexibility for
the Patriots without Hernandez, the real thing is always better than the
replacement — Roger Goodell can attest. Hernandez's return, especially if
earlier than anticipated, would be a huge boost for the Patriots' offense.

Since Hernandez went down, Tom Brady has seemed a bit
flustered in his progressions downfield. With the versatile tight end back in
the fold, though, the offense will be at full health and Brady will have a full
stable of weapons at his disposal.

Winslow's departure, for whatever the underlying reason,
will leave an unwanted void in the offense for at least a little while. But
that hole is nothing that the combination of Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Deion
or even Daniel Fells can't fill. Meanwhile, even the mere speculation of
a healthy Hernandez brings hope to a team saddled with an underwhelming 1-2

There has been no statement of improved health issued
regarding Hernandez, his status on the injury report hasn't changed and he has
yet to return to practice. But just the thought of an early return perks up the

The arsenal may be a little bit lighter without Winslow, but
a quicker return for Hernandez would be far more important in the long term.

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