The 2013 season will be remembered for many things, especially if this team is able to make a deep playoff run. But one of the biggest obstacles to that eventuality is the barrage of injuries to key players. The list includes not just starters, but key cogs on both sides of the ball: nose tackle Vince Wilfork, linebacker Jerod Mayo, and most recently tight end Rob Gronkowski. All Pro Bowl players, all on injured reserve.
On Wednesday, quarterback Tom Brady talked about life after Gronk and how the loss of one of the offense's most potent weapons doesn't necessarily spell the end of days for the 10-3 Pats.
"I would say our offense is pretty much our offense, so the other guys that are going to be in there filling that role and playing tight end for us have to do a great job," Brady said, via ESPNBoston.com. "We always try to find ways to use a guy's skill set, and we run it decent at times, we throw it decent at times... We still have confidence that we can go out and win games."
Winning games will now be dependent, in part, on those tight ends who will have to replace Gronkowski: Matthew Milligan, Michael Hoomanawanui and just re-signed D.J. Williams.
"They can definitely [help the offense], no question," Brady said. "They've been able to contribute [in] the role that they've been in that we've asked them to do, so I think now the role's going to be more. You're going to play more, because Gronk's not in there, so someone's got to be in there."
That said, Brady acknowledged replacing Gronkowski isn't a one-man job.
"That will fall on the backs, that will fall on the tight ends, that will fall on the receivers, anyone who's got an opportunity to produce while they're out on the field," the quarterback said.
But injuries affect every NFL team and Brady knows it's how a team responds that will ultimately determine their fate.
"Teams deal with it, and you deal with it one of two ways: You can let it affect you and your performance and your preparation, or you can deal with it and try to go out there and win a game," he said. "Your margin of error might -- you may not be able to do all the things you may want to do or hope to do, but hopefully it's still good enough to win."