The New England Patriots were rocked in last week's blowout win over the Indianapolis Colts by an injury to one of their young star tight ends, but the blow has been softened somewhat by the potential return to action by the other member of that dynamic duo.
Third-year pro Aaron Hernandez, who has missed seven of the past nine games with a high ankle sprain, will reportedly return to the field on Thursday night (via Dan Hanzus of NFL.com) against the New York Jets.
I say "reportedly" because this is, after all, the Patriots we're talking about here. The team is ultra-secretive about injuries, half the team is listed as questionable on a weekly basis and there have been grumblings that Hernandez would play in each of the past couple of weeks.
However, with Rob Gronkowski out for at least a month with a broken forearm, the team badly needs the 23-year-old Hernandez—who has 17 catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns in four games this season—back in the lineup.
It's for that reason more than any other that the general consensus is that Hernandez will play against the Jets, although it's likely to be in a limited role.
It's that last part that's the problem.
Even if Hernandez does play, it's likely to be in a reduced fashion. If he wasn't already a risky enough fantasy option with the prospect of limited snaps, this makes Hernandez less appealing than that weird stuffing your Aunt makes on Thanksgiving.
I haven't figured out what those crunchy things are, either.
At the end of the day, unless you're desperate, Hernandez is worth sitting one more week. If you own him, you've already lived without him for this long. It's much less risky to roll out your backup one more time than to risk Hernandez not seeing enough playing time to make a statistical impact.
That said, assuming that Hernandez makes it through Thursday's game unscathed, he'll have a long layoff before facing the Miami Dolphins a week from Sunday. This means that fantasy owners can once again get their starting tight end back into their lineups with confidence.
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