All signs point to Aaron Hernandez playing for the Pats on Thursday

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The silver lining to the snapped forearm suffered by Pats tight end Rob Gronkowski on Sunday is the fact that tight end Aaron Hernandez is close to returning from an ankle injury from which he previously returned too soon.

The reports of Hernandez making a Thursday night appearance have been percolating all week, with Albert Breer of NFL Network reporting on Tuesday that Hernandez will play “barring any late setbacks.”

Hernandez originally sprained the ankle in Week Two.  He returned four weeks later, played in two games, and hasn’t been able to suit up since then.

For the season, Hernandez has 17 catches for 243 yards and two touchdowns.  He’ll take on a far more prominent role in the absence of Gronkowski.

Hernandez is one of 19 Patriots who appeared on the Tuesday injury report.  Gronkowski, defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle), and guard Logan Mankins (ankle, calf) were the only three who didn’t practice.

At some point, the Pats’ injury report will be so long that it will be easier to list the players who are healthy.