Hernandez: It was good to be out there


Hernandez: It was good to be out there

FOXBORO -- Aaron Hernandez may have returned to the practice field October 4, but in two weeks he didn't once talk with reporters about his ankle sprain. Par for the course when it comes to the Patriots and injuries.

But that changed Thursday.

The tight end finally saw game action, playing 38 of 87 offensive snaps last weekend in Seattle. Three days before trying his luck against the Jets, Hernandez spoke with the press about going down, sitting out, and coming back.

How did it feel to get back out there Sunday?

AH: "I felt pretty good. It was good to be out there and help the team."

Any complications?

AH: "I came out healthy, and hopefully I'll come out healthy this week."

How difficult was it to be sidelined for three weeks?

AH: "Obviously, it was tough. Especially when you live to play football, you've been doing it your whole life. You want to play, you want to help the team. And that's why I came back."

Did you feel like you hit the ground running?

AH: "That's the only thing you could do. Maybe I was a step slower, but I felt pretty good and look forward to getting better."

What was your initial reaction to the injury itself?

AH: "I know we have a great training staff and I know they're going to work hard to get us back, especially under Bill's supervision. So I knew I was going to have a quick recovery and came back pretty good."

But when you first went down and you were holding the ankle, how bad did you think it was?

AH: "Broke. But it healed and I'm better now."

Was there any thought to play against Denver after your first week back at practice?

AH: "I don't think I was ready. Obviously I wanted to but it wasn't the right thing to do. Coach made a decision that next week would be best and I played the next week."

When did you know you were ready to return?

AH: "Coach said I could play. Laughs."

Does going to the ground after a tackle and coming back up okay help you get into the groove?

AH: "It's all about confidence. Got more practice time in and gained some more confidence in cutting off the ankle because I cut a lot. So I gained some confidence and it made me feel comfortable going out and playing a game."

Catching Tom Brady's first pass Sunday must have helped.

AH: "Yeah, when you're out there on the field you kind of forget about everything and just hope for the best. Once I caught that first pass I got back into the game and wanted the ball some more."

Any worry about setbacks?

AH: "You get nervous at times, but it's feeling great so it's really nothing to worry about anymore. If it gets hurt then it's the man above. But I guess I'll be all right."

Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots


Not a lot of talk about Cannon this season, and that's a good thing for Patriots

Marcus Cannon has had his run as a piñata. The Patriots offensive lineman is a frequent target when things go wrong up front and, usually, he’s deserved it.

A bit of anecdotal evidence? 

Sunday, I tweeted that every time I watched Cannon, he was making another good play.

On cue, about 10 tweets came back at me with variations of “Keep watching him!”

I asked Bill Belichick if he agreed with the layman’s assessment that Cannon’s playing well.

“I think Marcus [Cannon] has done a good job for us for quite a while,” Belichick began. “I mean he’s stepped in for Sebastian [Vollmer] and then last year when Nate [Solder] was out [and he substituted] for Nate. He has played a lot of good football for us.

“We extended our agreement with him off of his rookie contract which I think speaks to the fact that we want him on the team and we like what he’s doing and so forth and he’s continued to I’d say show with his performance [that he has] validated the confidence that we have in him.”

Cannon’s ending to 2015 – a poor performance (along with the rest of the line) against the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game was followed by a performance against the Cardinals that was marred by late-game holding calls.

But with Sebastian Vollmer injured (and still injured) it was sink or swim with Cannon which had plenty of people rolling their eyes.

But – as I said – every time I see Cannon, he’s either holding off a defensive end in pass protection, steamrolling downfield in the running game or making really athletic second-level or cut blocks in the screen game.

“Like every player, as they gain more experience they do get better,” said Belichick. “I think our offensive line’s certainly improved over the course of the year and playing with more consistency than we did last year. But there’s always room for improvement and the continuity that we’ve had there since (right guard) Shaq [Mason] has gotten in the last few weeks – we had Shaq over on the right side a little bit at the end of the season last year and then this year most all of the year except when Shaq was out for a few weeks there at the end of training camp and the start of the season – but our overall consistency and communication on the offensive line has been better because we’ve had more continuity there so that helps everybody.”

It can’t hurt that the lineman whisperer, Dante Scranecchia, has returned to coach the group. Cannon’s conditioning and physique looks better. He just appears more athletic and explosive. And he’s seemed more relaxed in the limited time the media’s in the locker room.

All off that added up equals nobody really talking about Marcus Cannon.
“Like any lineman, the less you call his name probably the better he’s doing,” said Belichick. “It’s probably a good thing when you guys don’t talk about him. Then that probably means they’re not doing something too noticeably wrong, right?”


Patriots reportedly deal Derby to Broncos for fifth-round pick


Patriots reportedly deal Derby to Broncos for fifth-round pick

The Patriots pulled off a rare deal with a rival on Tuesday. 

According to ESPN, they've sent tight end A.J. Derby to the Broncos in exchange for a fifth-round pick. 

Derby played in 33 offensive snaps over four games this season for the Patriots. A sixth-round draft choice in 2015 out of Arkansas, Derby spent most of his rookie season on injured reserve. 

One of the stars of the preseason for the Patriots, Derby caught 15 passes for 189 yards in four exhibition games. A former college quarterback for Iowa and Arkansas, Derby was named a practice player of the week by the Patriots when they were hurting for healthy signal-callers early in the season during Tom Brady's suspension.

The deal leaves the Patriots somewhat thin at the tight end position. They now have now true tight ends behind Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett. They do, however, have fullback James Develin, who meets with tight ends on a daily basis. On the practice squad, the Patriots have another fullback in Glenn Gronkowski. 

In Denver, Derby will compete with tight ends Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman and John Phillips for time.