FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez told reporters on Thursday that he feared he had broken his ankle during a Week 2 game against the Arizona Cardinals, but said that the injury is now healed.
Hernandez returned to the field Sunday for the first time since the injury, catching a pass on the Patriots' opening play.
He said he felt pretty good in his return, playing 38 of 87 snaps (including penalties), and that he wasn't thinking about his ankle during the game.
"When you're out there on the field, you kind of forget about everything, and just hope for the best," he said. "Once I caught that first pass and got back into the game, and wanted the ball some more."
There were no complications after the game.
"I came out healthy, and hopefully come out healthy this week," Hernandez said.
Despite catching four passes for 30 yards and a touchdown in his return, the third-year tight end admits he may have been a step slower than his normal self, but aimed to play at full speed.
"That's the only thing you really could do," he added. "Maybe I was a step slower, but I felt pretty good, and I look forward to getting better."
Being away from his teammates for three games was hard for the 22-year old.
"It was tough, especially when we live to play football," he said. "You've been doing it your whole life, you want to play, you want to help the team, that's it, that's why I came back."
It appeared that Hernandez had a shot to play in the team's Week 5 game against Denver after practicing on a limited basis both Thursday and Friday of that week, but he said he wasn't quite ready to return.
"I don't think I was ready," he noted. "Obviously I wanted to, but it wasn't the right thing to do. Coach made the decision that the next week would be best, and I played the next week."
He said the gauge he used to determine when he was ready was confidence.
"It's all about confidence, and I got some more practice time in, and gained some more confidence cutting off the ankle, because I cut a lot," Hernandez said. "And so I can gained some confidence, and it made me feel comfortable to go out and play in the game."
Despite being back on the field, Hernandez admitted that a player can still be nervous about another instance of an opponent rolling up on or contacting his ankle.
"You get nervous at times, but it's feeling great, so it's nothing to worry about no more," he said.
The Patriots' Week 7 opponent, the New York Jets, have suggested that they targeted players this offseason specifically to account for both Hernandez and tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Hernandez echoed Gronkowski's comments from earlier in the week about needing to be ready for everything when it comes to facing the Jets.
"They've got a variety of things that they do, and it's our job to prepare for it," he said. "And they do a lot of stuff, and they have good players, like every other team in the NFL. We've just got to come to play, and do what we need to do to win."