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Aaron Hernandez's role could expand for Patriots

NFL.com and NFL Network compadre Albert Breer provided a nice look at the New England Patriots on Sunday with his training camp overview.

We wanted to call attention to one section from the piece, which touched on slot receiver Wes Welker's long-term future in Foxborough. Head coach Bill Belichick gave an intriguing answer when asked about having depth behind a unique hybrid player like tight end Aaron Hernandez.

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"If you have (a similar player) then you could put that player in there for him," the coach told Breer. "If you don't have that, then you have other players on your roster who would do things maybe not quite the same but fill a similar role. If he's an inside receiver and Welker is an inside receiver, then they're not the same, but they're both inside receivers, as an example."

Interesting that Belichick uses Welker as the example there. With Rob Gronkowski recently signed to a hefty multiyear deal, the Patriots are unlikely to lock up both Welker and Hernandez. The younger Hernandez could be a tempting replacement for Welker -- in terms of targets -- if the team lets him walk after the season.

Conspiracy theorists, feel free to point to the recent acquisitions of Visanthe Shiancoe and Jake Ballard as Phase One of a Machiavellian scheme slowly coming into focus.

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