If you woke up hoping for good news on the Aaron Hernandez front, just go back to bed. Do it now, and fantasize about a better fantasy.
When the only slightly lesser half of the Patriots tight end behemoth injured his ankle during Sunday’s upset loss to the Cardinals, we originally heard that no bones had snapped, and no muscles had folded. That was splendid, but those who wept tears of joy over that news likely also don’t know what President Obama’s last name is, because naiveness.
Then we learned that he’d be out for up to six weeks, which sounded awful, yet logical. But lo, hope was restored once more by the next giver of optimism, ESPN’s James Walker, who wrote that Hernandez will be out until at least October, which is only a two-game absence. So now we’ve made the next successive step, and found a timeline that falls a little more in the middle.
A report from NFL Network dubs the injury a low-ankle sprain, and says that Hernandez will be out for four-to-six weeks. On the most optimistic end of that timeline, he’ll will miss four games and be back for Week 7. Call me a cynical old crank if you must, but I’ll lean more to the longer timetable, and that’s not because I have any inside information on Hernandez’s injury, or any medical expertise whatsoever beyond minor burns from hot coffee.
No, it’s because if he doesn’t heal quickly (and he’s young, so he has that), then the six-week layoff puts Hernandez right up against the Patriots’ Week 9 bye. With the schedule featuring a few very winnable games at least on paper (Seattle, Buffalo, St. Louis) between now and then, the prevailing wisdom with a winning record at that point if Hernandez is still out will be to give him that extra week, and ensure he’s healthy for the stretch run and into the playoffs. There’s also the added wrinkle that the Pats’ Week 8 game against the Rams requires a flight over an ocean to play at Wembley Stadium, and for a player recovering from a serious injury that experience could be far less than comfortable
So this injury seems to be about as serious as what was first reported, and if you need any more proof then turn to the waiver wire. No, not the one in your league, although you should do that too, and we’ll explore options to replace Hernandez later today if you’re pulling out handfuls of hair.
I’m talking about the real waiver wire, or more accurately, the real free agent pool. The Patriots have reportedly signed Kellen Winslow Jr. according to our boy James Walker. They did this because owning all of the tight ends wasn’t sufficient depth at the position, as three of the TEs New England signed this past offseason (Visanthe Shiancoe, Jake Ballard, and Michael Hoomanawanui) are on the injured reserve, and Daniel Fells has a shin injury. That leaves, um, Rob Gronkowski to play opposite Rob Gronkowski.
Winslow will need to pass a physical first before the deal is finalized, which is a formality for anyone not named Kellen Winslow Jr. If and when that happens, don’t brush him aside from a fantasy perspective as some crappy, aging tight end. You could do that during his brief time in Seattle because he was playing in a far inferior offense. But now he’ll be quickly dropped into an offense that utilizes the tight end far more frequently and efficiently, and Winslow could be asked to become Hernandez-lite (so very, very light), and take the underneath and more intermediate routes while Gronk stretches the field deep.
In Winslow we’re still discussing a player who had 763 receiving yards last year, so he can still run and be a big-bodied presence. His ability to stay healthy should be of little concern to you, because if you’re league is deep enough that you’re giving him a serious look, then he’s a mere waiver wire flier and a short-term solution.
And now the links part of the links post…