— The New England Patriots are hopeful that wide receiver Aaron Hernandez can return from his ACL injury that ended his 2016 season, and coach Bill Belichick is confident that the quarterback can continue his growth and maturity.

During his four-year career, Hernandez has become one of the most electrifying and influential players in the NFL.

He led the Patriots to the AFC Championship game in his first season, was named to the Pro Bowl and finished his career with the franchise’s most prolific touchdown total in franchise history.

In his first four seasons with the Patriots, he has tallied 7,724 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns, the most by any player in team history.

In the Patriots’ five-year tenure, he was a two-time Pro Bowler and was a three-time first-team All-Pro, as well as the franchise leader in receptions (2,836) and receiving yards (2.69).

The Patriots’ quarterback was also named to three All-Star Game rosters and is the franchise all-time leader in passer rating (135.4), completions (1,857) and touchdown passes (11).

He also was named the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s MVP in 2008 and the ProFootball Hall of Famer’s sixth-straight selection to the NFL Hall of Honor in 2015.

A second-round pick of the Patriots in the 2006 NFL Draft, Hernandez was the first member of the team to be suspended by the NFL following the 2015 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

The team announced in January 2018 that Hernandez would be suspended for the 2017 season, which was the final season of the first-year, $13.9 million contract.

Following the 2017 campaign, Hernandez told reporters he hoped to be ready for training camp in 2018.

He said his injury history had helped him focus on rehabilitating his knee and his health in the offseason, adding that he was not worried about his health as long as he remained healthy.

Hernandez, who missed the Patriots final three games last season because of an ankle injury, will make his Patriots debut Sunday against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.