Hard for Pats to replace Hernandez

The timetable for a verdict for former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on six charges, including the murder of Odin Lloyd, is unknown, but what we do know is this: The Patriots will take to the practice fields outside Gillette Stadium to begin training camp in advance of the 2013 regular season in less than one month.

All eyes will be on an offense that endured substantial turnover this offseason, while also dealing with multiple surgeries to standout tight end Rob Gronkowski. He most recently underwent a back procedure that is likely to keep him off the field to start training camp and might jeopardize his availability for the start of the season.

Tight end isn't the only position that was affected this offseason, as wide receiver Wes Welker signed with the Broncos in free agency, while Brandon Lloyd, who totaled more than 900 receiving yards in 2012, was cut in March.

That means the Patriots will be without at least three of their top four targets from last season when they travel to Buffalo in Week 1, with the possibility of Gronkowski sitting out as well.

It's a steep challenge to overcome for any team, even one that has successfully evolved following previous personnel changes in seasons past.

The benefit the Patriots have had is a full set of organized team activities and a two-day minicamp to work without the quartet of top targets from 2012, but it was not until recently, of course, that they discovered they would be without Hernandez. For that reason and more, replacing him will be the most difficult personnel task for the Patriots entering the 2013 season.

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