The New England Patriots have more bad injury news at the tight end position as Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reports that Aaron Hernandez will likely miss the team's OTAs and minicamp this offseason after undergoing shoulder surgery.
The Patriots began "Phase One" of their offseason program on Monday and have OTA dates scheduled for May 20-21, May 28-30, June 3-4 and June 6-7. The team's mandatory minicamp closes out their offseason program from June 11-13.
News of Hernandez's potential absence this offseason comes one week after a Boston Herald report that Rob Gronkowski may not be ready for the start of the 2013 regular season due to an infection in his twice-broken left forearm. Gronkowski is likely to require an additional surgery on the forearm, which could keep him out through the start of the regular season.
Hernandez is coming off an injury-plagued season where he missed six entire games, plus most of another, after suffering a high ankle sprain in a Week 2 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Hernandez still managed to catch 51 passes, but his 483 receiving yards and five touchdowns were career-lows. Hernandez added 15 receptions for 168 yards in the Patriots' two playoff games, totals which ranked second on the team behind wide receiver Wes Welker (16 receptions, 248 yards), who departed via free agency this offseason.
In just their second NFL season, 2010 draft picks Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 169 receptions for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011, emerging as the top tight end duo in the league. Both tight ends got paid last offseason, with the Patriots signing Gronkowski to a six-year, $54 million extension in June before signing Hernandez to a five-year, $37.5 million extension in late August, two weeks before the start of the regular season. Even with Hernandez and Gronkowski missing significant playing time (Gronkowski missed five games with his first forearm break), they still combined for 106 receptions, 1,273 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012.
With Gronkowski and Hernandez likely on the shelf this offseason, veterans Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui and first-year player Brad Herman will get plenty of work with the first-team offense.