Big news on the Patriots injury front today. Tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski returned to practice.
Hernandez had missed the last seven practices with an ankle injury, and Gronkowski missed yesterday’s session to rest his hip ailment.
Hernandez was limping a bit after running his first route during positional drills and was testing his ankle when he was off to the side. He looked fine after a drill a few minutes later when he had to really stutter-step and plant his feet before turning for the ball.
Hernandez didn't show any noticeable limp during media-access portion of practice today. Caught some passes from QBs in half-speed warmups— Mike Rodak (@mikerodak) October 4, 2012
Yeah so this is obviously a huge surprise. It's also no guarantee that he will suit up against the Broncos but who knows. Hernandez was seen walking without a limp last week, he didn't practice at all. The fact that he is back today (likely in a limited fashion) obviously suggests he is recovering much faster than expected.
Being able to play this week against the Broncos is well ahead of the 4-6 week timetable that was given for his return. It's still not exactly clear what the specific nature of the injury was, other than an ankle injury. If he's back practicing, there's no way that this was a high ankle sprain.
This would be a huge boost for a Patriots offense which - when it wasn't exploding for 40+ in a half - has struggled. Hernandez is the key piece in this offense, and with Daniel Fells back and healthy the Patriots can finally get back to the three tight end set that they had originally planned on at the beginning of the year.
If Hernandez can return for this Sunday, which I still doubt, that would be huge for this team, as they will likely find themselves in a shoot out with Peyton Manning. They'll need everyone they can get.
Watch out NFL.