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Aaron Hernandez upbeat about potential return

One player the Patriots definitely could use Thursday against the Jets, especially with Rob Gronkowski injured, is fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez.

An ankle injury suffered in the home opener Sept. 16 has been tough for Hernandez to overcome. He came back and played in two games, but has missed six of the past eight, including three straight.

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Hernandez played coy when asked Monday if he’ll be on the field against the Jets.

“We’ll see,” Hernandez said, smiling.

The other tight ends on the active roster are Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Michael Hoomanawanui. They’ve combined for four catches on the season. Gronkowski (53) and Hernandez (17) have combined for 70, and 12 of those have gone for touchdowns.

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Hernandez has been inactive for the last three games, with the Patriots winning all three and scoring 45, 37, and 59 points. He likes what he’s seen, but wants to be part of it, especially now with Gronkowski not available.

“It’s tough to watch, but hopefully I get back soon and help them out,” Hernandez said. “He’s obviously one of the best players in the league, but we have a lot of players and everyone has to step up to fill the void.”

Will that be Hernandez this week?

“I don’t know,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We’ll have to see how close he is or isn’t to playing. Probably make a decision later on in the week, maybe even a game-time decision.

“I’d definitely put Aaron in the day-by-day category.”

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