FOXBORO, Mass. -- Tom Brady summed up the feeling in Patriot land regarding Rob Gronkowski's broken forearm, which required surgery Monday and will keep the tight end out at least a month.
"It ---- that he gets hurt,'' Brady said on Boston radio station WEEI Monday morning. "But it's part of this game. He's got to do his best to get back as soon as possible. And we've got to go out there and win some games without him.''
The Pats will have only three days to prepare for the Thanksgiving night trip to MetLife Stadium to face the Jets. Losing Gronkowski, who had seven catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's 59-24 rout of the Colts, is a blow, but Bill Belichick's crew never would let anyone see itself as vulnerable.
So it is "next man up" time for the Patriots, who could have a pretty decent one in Aaron Hernandez. Their No. 1A tight end has missed six games, including the last three, with an ankle injury. He was limited in practice Monday but would be the obvious choice to replace Gronkowski.
"Obviously it's tough -- he's one of the best players in the league," Hernandez said. "Everyone has to step up and try to fill the void."
Gronkowski reportedly was hurt blocking on the extra point that got the Pats to 59, after he was pulled on offense. On his afternoon segment on WEEI, Belichick defended keeping him on the PAT protection unit that late in a rout.
"I can just hear it now,'' Belichick said, "if somebody else was in at wing who wasn't used to playing for the field-goal team, a guy came around the edge and dove in there, and the holder or kicker got torn up, it would have been, 'Why was he in there? Why wouldn't you go with the same guys doing it the whole game?'
" . . . If you want to take a guy out for a reason, you can do that, but guys have got to play."
The Pats also may be without stellar rookie defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle) and guard Logan Mankins (ankle/calf), neither of whom practiced. But Brady noted there's little sympathy for losing players this time of year.
"No one cares what's going on with us," he said. "The Jets lose [Darrelle] Revis for the season, they lose Santonio Holmes for the season.
"Every team has injuries. We've been dealing with them all season. We've still got to go out there and execute."