NFL

Without Develin, Patriots plan to be flexible at fullback

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The loss of James Develin to a broken right tibia left the New England Patriots without a fullback on the roster.

Sort of.

''Playing fullback sometimes you see the fullback line up at tight end (and) tight ends line up at fullback,'' tight end Rob Gronkowski said Monday. ''It's all what you can do as a player. You've got to do your job so the more you can do, the better off you are.

More from FoxSports

''If I ever got called to play fullback, I know when I lined up in the backfield a couple of times and played fullback. So it's definitely a position that interchanges and you can play both.''

Develin, injured in Friday night's game at Carolina, could be out 6 to 8 weeks.

The Patriots could line up backup tight end Michael Hoomanawanui in the backfield. Gronkowski could shift to the spot on certain plays and running back LeGarrette Blount, suspended for the Sept. 10 opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers for violating the league's substance abuse policy, is built like a fullback.

The team released fullback Eric Kettani last week and there's always the chance New England could bring him back or add another player.

''I'm sure there are a lot of different possibilities,'' coach Bill Belichick said. ''There are different possibilities. We've talked through different options.

''But the tight end plays off of the other skills positions, and with a player like Mike, who has played on the offensive line, maybe he plays in the offensive line positions or the offensive line plays into the tight end position, as we've used offensive linemen in that spot.''

Regardless, Develin is good at what he does and will be tough to replace.

''He's definitely going to be missed,'' Gronkowski said. ''He was our thumper. He was the guy that set the tone on our offense and having big hits and creating the holes for the running back.

''He's a great guy, hard worker, and I'm sure he'll be back in no time because he loves the game. He always works hard. We've just got to come together as a team.''

Develin, who stayed behind in Charlotte and underwent surgery, tweeted a thank you to his fans after an outpouring of support.

NOTES: The Patriots released five players: WR Josh Boyce, WR Jonathan Krause, TE Jimmay Mundine, DL Joe Vellano and LB Dekoda Watson. The roster must be at 75 on Tuesday and then to 53 Saturday. ... Recently signed wide receiver Reggie Wayne says trying to catch up is ''like (being) a rookie all over again - 36-year-old freshman.'' Friday night, days after signing, he dropped the only pass thrown to him and ran the wrong route on another play. Talking about Tom Brady, absent from Monday's walkthrough because he was in a New York court in the ''Deflategate'' case, Wayne said, ''He's awesome. He's everything an outsider would see and think. For 14 years I've been on the other side of the ball. I'm looking at the way he operates and you say to yourself he's got to be an A-1 quarterback. It looks like he does everything the right way, having fun, enjoying the game. You look at it from afar and you say those things and then when you're on the same team it's everything you thought.'' ... The Patriots host the New York Giants in the preseason finale Thursday night.

---

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL