Hernandez 'felt good' in return from knee injury

556696.jpg

Hernandez 'felt good' in return from knee injury

By Danny Picard
CSNNE.com Staff Reporter Follow @dannypicard
FOXBORO -- Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez had missed the previoustwo games with an MCL injury, but returned on Sunday night against the New YorkJets.

He made five catches for 56 yards in New Englands30-21 win at Gillette Stadium.

I felt pretty good out there, said Hernandez. Felt like my knee wasnthurting, and Im ready for next week.

Hernandezs day took a bad turn at the end of the first half,when a Tom Brady pass deflected off his hands and ended up in the possession ofJets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who ran the interception to midfield before being pushedout of bounds.

Obviously as a player, you love the game, and it hurts you,said Hernandez on the ball he should have caught for a touchdown. Itll stillbother me until this nights over. But youve just got to turn your game aroundand bring it back next week.

Luckily for Hernandez and the Patriots, time in the secondquarter had expired, and New England got the ball to begin the second half.

Hernandez made up for it with a big 21-yard reception overthe middle with 3:30 left in the third quarter. Several plays later, thePatriots scored another touchdown on a BenJarvus Green-Ellis run, and took a24-14 lead after the extra point, making Hernandezs reception the biggest playof what turned out to be the game-winning drive, knee brace and all.

The knee brace maybe slowed me down a little bit, saidHernandez. But you dont really think about it when youre out there. So Ifelt like it felt pretty good . . . When youre in the moment, at a game, all them fans outthere, national TV, then you kind of forget about the brace.

"Aaron has really worked hard the last couple of weeks to get back out there," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the win. "Hes in here early, he stays late. He's leaving when the coaches are leaving. Hes getting a lot of extra treatment. He was able to come out and practice later on in the week and handle a little more each day and kept getting better, so we felt confident going into the game, and he felt confident going into the game.

"Again, he got behind the defense a couple times, so he obviously got his speed back. I thought he had a good couples days of practice at the end of the week and was able to carry it over into the game. He's a tough guy to match up against. Hes a good player."

Danny Picard is on twitter at http:twitter.comDannyPicard.

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

patriots-gronkowski-3-103016.jpg

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.