Though he seemed to give every indication all week that he was ready to go and eager to play, Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is not expected to play Sunday against the Bills, according to a report on NFL Network.
If he is not in uniform, it will be the second straight game and fifth this season that Hernandez has missed because of a sprained ankle suffered early in a Week 2 loss to Arizona.
He returned against Seattle and played 38 snaps, then saw his workload increase the next week against the Jets to 57 snaps. Hernandez was supposed to be brought back slowly, and the workload likely set him back.
Concerns over his ability to cut led to the Patriots keeping him home while the team went to London to face the Rams so he could continue to rehab.
Coming off their bye, which gave Hernandez more time to recover, the Patriots held four practices last week. Hernandez did not practice Tuesday to be present for the birth of his daughter, but he did practice Wednesday through Friday.
The team reported his participation as limited. He is officially listed as questionable for the game.
At practice Wednesday, Hernandez and the rest of the tight ends were doing drills near reporters and he made sure they took notice of how well he was moving.
On Thursday, he wore a white game jersey, not the standard white practice jersey. When asked why, he smiled and said, “Game time!”
The Patriots can certainly win without Hernandez against Buffalo.
They also will have still another tight end available: On Saturday, the team activated Visanthe Shiancoe off the injured reserve list. Shiancoe was the player New England designated for return off of IR, meaning he couldn’t practice for six weeks after being added to the list, then could practice for two weeks before the team was able to add him to its 53-man roster.
Since New England receives a roster exemption because of Brandon Bolden’s suspension, it did not have to make a move to add Shiancoe.
Safety Steve Gregory suffered a hip injury the last time the Patriots played the Bills. When Buffalo visits Gillette Stadium for Round 2, Gregory could be back on the field.
“I’m real anxious,” Gregory said. “It’s not fun to sit on the couch and watch the guys out there playing, so I’m real anxious to get out there and play.”
The former Charger, one of the first free agents New England signed last March, recorded 14 tackles, an interception, and a pass breakup in three-plus games before being hurt.
A healthy Gregory and fellow safety Patrick Chung plus next week’s addition of Aqib Talib will provide depth to the secondary, which has struggled this season.
Questions on line
Former Patriot Mark Anderson (knee) has been declared out for Buffalo, and the Bills have three other defensive linemen listed as questionable: Chris Kelsay (neck), Shawne Merriman (chest), and Spencer Johnson (ankle). Kelsay was not able to finish practice Thursday and did not practice Friday. Buffalo coach Chan Gailey made it sound as though Kelsay will be a game-time decision. “It’s not major, but I don’t know if he can get ready for this week,” Gailey said Friday.