Hernandez on lonely TE life

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Thursday's practice had a different feel to it for tight end Aaron Hernandez. With his close friend Rob Gronkowski out with a left ankle injury, and new practice squad signee Carson Butler not present, Hernandez was the lone player at the position.

Naturally, he missed having Gronkowski alongside him.

"It’s a little boring," Hernandez said, "but he’ll be back out there soon."

Gronkowski's status figures to be one of the big storylines leading into Super Bowl XLVI. He is expected to play, but the bigger question is how effective he will be. Few benefit more from that effectiveness than Hernandez.

"It's great having a tight end like him. He can do it all," Hernandez said. "It makes it that much easier on me. If he's not here, it's obviously a lot tougher on me. He draws so much attention because of how big he is, how physical, [his] speed. It makes me a better player."

Asked if he had any doubts that Gronkowski would be ready for the Super Bowl, he said, "I’m sure he’ll take it day by day and I’m sure he’ll be fine. That’s for him and the trainers to know about."