The reality is sinking in, a little more than 24 hours after news broke that Rob Gronkowski has been sidelined indefinitely with yet another back injury.
On Friday, some of his teammates turned down requests to share their feelings publicly, but others, like QB Tom Brady, made an effort.
"He's a tough player," Brady said of his injured tight end. "There are no guys like Rob just on the street. It's hard to sub one guy for one guy but other guys will just have to play. When he comes out of the lineup, someone else has to step in and fill that spot. It may not be a tight end spot, maybe another receiver, another running back, could be tight end."
Fullback James Develin is another option to see more snaps in Gronkowski's absence.
"I can't speak for the reps I'm getting," said Develin. "I just have to go out and try to do my best when my number's called."
"We still have to go out and execute the plays well," Brady added. "There's [approximately] 70 of them in the game and you have to execute all 70 as well as you possibly can. The better players you have, the more consistent players you have, the more you can do that on a consistent basis. There's going to be a lot of guys trying to do that."
Of course, that's the on-field, business aspect of Gronk's latest season-ending injury, but there's also a personal element to the situation, which Develin addressed.
"Obviously, you just kind of feel for him. It's really tough. We work really hard out here and we try to put ourselves in the best position to play, and when that's taken from you when an injury happens, it's tough. So, we feel for him."
Gronkowski underwent surgery today in Los Angeles and is expected to be out of commission for the next two months.
After returning to the practice field the past two days, special teams co-captain Matthew Slater (left foot) did not take part on Friday. It's unclear if he had a setback in his recovery from the ailment that he first sustained two games ago in San Francisco.
Rookie defensive lineman Woodrow Hamilton also sat this one out. It was his second straight absence since coming down with an unspecified illness this week.
Meanwhile, rookie safety Jordan Richards did not practice at all this week after suffering a right knee injury against the Jets in New York last weekend.
Finally, in what is quickly becoming almost a running joke, the Patriots re-signed Gronkowski's youngest brother Glenn, a fullback, to the practice squad. This is the rookie Gronkowski's fourth stint with New England – so far – this season. Not surprisingly, he declined to answer any questions from the media today.
Veteran defensive lineman Darius Kilgo spent a few minutes with reporters this afternoon. It was his first interaction with the media since being claimed by the Patriots off waivers from the Denver Broncos earlier this week.
The University of Maryland product, in his second NFL season, was a 2015 Broncos draft pick who appeared in 18 games for the defending Super Bowl champions.
"It was surprising," Kilgo admitted about his abrupt departure from Denver. "Coming from Denver and going to another great organization is just unbelievable. To have this opportunity is great. Yeah, it caught me off guard a little bit, but it's part of the business... it kind of worked out for the best."
When asked about his role, Kilgo gave the obligatory "wherever they put me" answer that nearly all Foxborough newcomers give, but he conceded with a chuckle that he's "just a little slimmer than that" 319 pounds at which he's currently listed on the roster. Kilgo is around 300 pounds and working on getting up to the 305-310 range.
He went on to say that, despite not really knowing anyone on the current roster – other than head coach Bill Belichick, who worked him out during the pre-draft process – he's getting adjusted to life in New England rather quickly.
"It's been good," he continued. "Everybody here is great, from the players all the way to the administration. I feel like I walked in and I'm welcome."
Kilgo's closest connection to the Patriots roster before this week was former Patriot Aqib Talib, his erstwhile teammate in Denver.
"He's a character," Kilgo laughed. "Probably one of the funniest guys I've met."
The laughs didn't stop there in the Patriots locker room today.
Rookie WR Malcolm Mitchell recently made a guest appearance on patriots.com's web video series "Magic Moments" with magician John Duke Logan. Mitchell was so awed by Logan's tricks that he showed the video to fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett. The QB was skeptical, though, but it just so happened that Logan, a patriots.com web assistant, was in the locker room at the time and began performing tricks for the two players. Soon, they were joined by rookie o-lineman Ted Karras, veteran running back LeGarrette Blount, and several members of the media.
As the session devolved into a laugh-fest, Brissett did his best to thwart Logan's efforts at legerdemain, but Karras walked away thoroughly impressed.