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D.Gronkowski ready for increased role

9/19/2011

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Dan Gronkowski (82) said he's ready to ramp up his role.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's been less than two full weeks since the Patriots officially inked tight end Dan Gronkowski and the third-year tight end fully admits to getting tossed into the fire.

"There were some instances in the [first two games of the season] where I actually had to go in there with [the staff] coaching me up on the sidelines," said Gronkowski. "I was going in there and running plays that I'd never run before. I gotta keep getting in the playbook, getting everything down and be real comfortable."

But Gronkowski made it clear that he's at the point now where he feels like he's ready for any workload the coaching staff can offer, which might ramp up with reports that tight end Aaron Hernandez could miss game action after suffering a knee injury late in Sunday's win over the Chargers.

"They expect me to know everything now," said Gronkowski. "I’m at that point. I'm ready to get in there and just help out the team however I can."

Gronkowski played 21 of 80 snaps (26.3 percent) in Week 1 against Miami and 19 of 71 snaps (26.8 percent) on Sunday against San Diego. But the Patriots ran 60 of their 71 plays against the Chargers with at least two tight ends on the field, including a whopping 42 in two tight end sets. While the Patriots utilized rookie tackle Nate Solder as a third end at times, it seems very likely that Gronkowski's snaps will almost certainly jump up if Hernandez can't go.

If there's one game that Gronkowski -- who doesn't have a catch yet, but is also playing on special teams -- wouldn't mind additional reps, it's Sunday's visit to Buffalo, which will serve as a bit of a homecoming for the native of nearby Amherst, N.Y. With Gronkowski and his younger brother, Rob, in town, Dan Gronkowski is expecting plenty of local support. But he also knows his focus must remain on the 2-0 Bills in an AFC East clash.

"It’s always fun to go home and play, but you gotta stay focused on the game," said the elder Gronkowski. "It's about going and playing Buffalo, not about going home to Buffalo. You gotta stay focused."