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Hernandez, Wright, Vollmer out vs. Bills

By Shalise Manza Young and Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / September 24, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - Injuries continue to cause problems for the Patriots, as yesterday they declared three players out for tomorrow’s AFC East matchup against the Bills - tight end Aaron Hernandez, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, and defensive lineman Mike Wright.

Vollmer’s unavailability means the Patriots are again down to two healthy tackles, as they were in Miami two weeks ago when rookie Nate Solder got his first start. Solder will likely start at right tackle, with Matt Light in his customary spot on the left side.

Without Hernandez, who suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee against the Chargers last Sunday, the Patriots may have to look to a number of players to fill his many roles, including receiver Chad Ochocinco. Wright suffered a concussion against the Dolphins in Week 1 and has not taken the field since, though he has been at the team facility.

Eight Patriots are listed as questionable for tomorrow - defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (back), who missed the last two days of practice, safety Patrick Chung (hand), cornerback Ras-I Dowling (hip), linebackers Jerod Mayo (thigh) and Gary Guyton (hamstring), punter Zoltan Mesko (left knee), receiver Taylor Price (hamstring), and guard Ryan Wendell (calf).

Chung returned to practice yesterday but was limited. He underwent surgery earlier in the week after hurting his right thumb against San Diego, and did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. Given Chung’s passion for the game, he almost certainly will push to play despite wearing a cast.

Haynesworth played 23 snaps last week, but with Myron Pryor (shoulder) being placed on injured reserve this week, the rotation at defensive tackle is thin, and will suffer even more if Haynesworth is unable to play.

Tight end Dan Gronkowski was released yesterday, and a corresponding move to fill his spot on the 53-man roster was not announced. Gronkowski missed practice Thursday and wasn’t present for the media-access portion because of a hamstring injury.

Rob Gronkowski is now the only healthy tight end on the roster, although Garrett Mills is on the practice squad.

Blast from the past Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of Jets linebacker Mo Lewis’s crushing hit on Drew Bledsoe, which opened the door for Tom Brady to become the Patriots’ starting quarterback and changed the course of the franchise.

Patriots defensive lineman Shaun Ellis, who was a Jet at the time, was also part of the play, stalking Bledsoe until the hit.

“I was chasing him, we got to the sideline and I dove to try to knock the ball out,’’ Ellis recalled. “He reached back to get the ball and that’s when Mo Lewis hit him.’’

Ellis remembered thinking Bledsoe had gotten the wind knocked out of him. He had actually suffered a sheared blood vessel in his chest.

“I didn’t know the extent of the injury,’’ said Ellis. “I didn’t know until after the game.’’

Bledsoe played five more seasons, but that was his last in New England. Brady led the Patriots to three Super Bowl wins.

“You just go out and try to play the game of football,’’ Ellis said. “You see it all the time. A guy goes down, the next guy comes in. Next thing you know, he’s a Hall of Famer. That’s just how it is.’’

Special delivery The FedEx envelope was on his seat, and Andre Carter didn’t have to ask what it meant.

The defensive end had to fork over $15,000 to the league for his second-quarter hit on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, for which he was whistled for roughing the passer.

Former NFL officiating czar Mike Pereira said via his Twitter account Sunday that Carter lowered his helmet. Carter disagreed with the ruling to an extent, saying it’s impossible to pull up at that stage of a play.

“You can’t,’’ he said. “They always say, if there’s an opening, you go ahead and take it. I mean, I don’t know. You can sit and kind of reflect on it and say maybe if my head was on the right side or on the left side. But there was no way of doing it. The only way I could think of is just pulling up. Going toward the quarterback in kind of that no-man’s land, you’ve got to take a shot. It wasn’t necessarily dirty, that’s just what defensive ends, defensive players thrive off of when it comes to harassing the quarterback and getting that pressure.’’

It’s the second time in Carter’s career that he’s been fined. The other was for a late hit.

Mesko hopeful Whether Mesko plays tomorrow depends on today’s practice, he said. He injured the knee of his kicking leg against the Chargers and has been limited in practice this week. The Patriots tried out two punters Wednesday in the event Mesko is unable to play. “I feel good,’’ he said. “We’ll see how we test it out fully. I feel like I put in all I got as far as rehab goes.’’

Teammate James Ihedigbo was blocked into Mesko in the third quarter of the Chargers game.

“It was just a little freak thing,’’ Mesko said. “The first few moments it was kind of strange. I had no clue. I’m always the eternal optimist. So I was hoping for the best. It wasn’t too bad, I think.’’

Bills also hurting The Bills ruled three players out for tomorrow, cornerback Terrence McGee (hamstring), guard Kraig Urbik (knee), and linebacker Kirk Morrison (hamstring).

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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