Big Decision: Should Hernandez play?

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
2:00
PM ET
The day before each game this season, this space will feature one big decision facing Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and his staff, in terms of the game plan.

This week's decision: Should the Patriots play tight end Aaron Hernandez on Sunday?

BroncosPatriotsWhen Hernandez was injured nearly three weeks ago, in Week 2 versus Arizona, the prognosis was that the athletic tight end would need about 4-6 weeks to recover.

On Thursday, Hernandez returned to practice, about two-and-a-half weeks after suffering the injury. He appeared to move well during light warm-up drills, but his ability in Sunday's game is another question.

Regardless, Hernandez's practicing twice this week undoubtedly forced the Denver Broncos to devote more time and energy toward devising a plan to defend Hernandez.

It's a similar situation to Super Bowl XLVI in February, when tight end Rob Gronkowski played despite suffering an ankle injury two weeks earlier in the AFC Championship. Microphones caught Giants defensive players on the sideline warning each other that Gronkowski was "just a decoy."

Could Hernandez be a decoy for the Patriots on Sunday? If Hernandez is truly ready to go, then that question becomes irrelevant. But if he's still another week away from being able to play, do the Patriots consider keeping him active anyway? Do they take it a step further and put him on the field for a few plays to keep the defense guessing?

What do you think? If Hernandez isn't ready to play, should the Patriots keep him active, and use him as a "decoy"? Join the discussion in the comments section below.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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