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November 21, 2012

No Gronk vs. Jets, but Pats still go as Brady goes

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — There were no sighs of relief, no jumps for joy when the New York Jets found out they wouldn’t have to worry about Rob Gronkowski this week.

Sure, the New England Patriots lost perhaps the league’s top playmaking tight end for a few weeks with a broken forearm. But Rex Ryan’s team knew better than to celebrate.

“I don’t know,” Ryan said, shaking his head. “They have five tight ends on their roster, so I don’t know if they’ll put another guy in that role. I’m not sure how they’ll do it.”

If Ryan has learned anything in his nearly four seasons as coach of the Jets, it’s that Bill Belichick usually finds a way to win no matter who’s out there — or isn’t — on the field for the Patriots. Ryan also knows New England can change the personnel, but as long as it’s still Tom Brady’s bunch, it’ll be a tough task.

“When you look at him,” Ryan said, “you can almost say he’s a machine back there.”

And Ryan is right about the Patriots’ glut of tight ends. Aaron Hernandez could return for the game against the Jets (4-6) Thursday night at MetLife Stadium after missing the last three with a sprained right ankle, and New England also has Daniel Fells, Visanthe Shiancoe and Michael Hoomanawanui at the position.

“New England is so multiple, they give you sometimes it could be four wides, five wides, could be a bunch of tight ends and all that,” Ryan said. “So, we’ll see as the game goes how it affects them.”

Belichick was typically tight-lipped when asked if the loss of Gronkowski will change the offense for the Patriots (7-3).

“Well, we’ll see,” he said. “I don’t know. We’ll see.”

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