Healthy Hightower: 'There's no looking back now'

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Healthy Hightower: 'There's no looking back now'

FOXBORO -- Patriots rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower returned to game action on Sunday against the Jets, after missing the previous two games with a hamstring injury.

And he didn't miss a beat.

Hightower recorded a season-high seven tackles and a sack in New England's overtime win. It was just one of the signs that he was held back for two games as a "precaution."

"We waited it out," said Hightower before Thursday's practice. "I got treatment and felt a lot better. So, there's no looking back now. I'm doing everything I can to prevent a hamstring pull or anything like that again. I'm just doing everything I can to stay on the field."

So, just how do you go about preventing a hamstring injury?

"Keep stretching, stay hydrated, just a lot of things," said Hightower. "Make sure you're eating right, the weight thing. Just more or less, stretching more. I think that was probably my biggest problem. But I'm definitely taking care of that now."

And now that he feels healthy, Hightower knows his role on the field once he's done stretching.

"My role is to hit the dude with the ball," he said. "So that's what I'm doing. So, as long as I do that, and Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo aren't yelling at me, I feel like I'm doing my job."

Now almost midway through his first NFL season, Hightower realizes how important veterans like Wilfork and Mayo are around him on the field.

"Those guys have seen a lot and they've been through a lot," said Hightower. "It feels good to have an older guy that you can kind of talk to about certain things that you see and that you feel about, that other rookies can't really help you out because they haven't been here.

"So, having those two guys to fall back on, definitely makes my life a little bit easier. If there are certain concepts I don't understand, I can just talk to Mayo or Vince about it."

And while having veterans around him is nice, Hightower also finds pleasure in seeing fellow rookies making an impact.

"It just feels good to look over and see Chandler Jones and Alfonzo Dennard and Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner," said Hightower. "All those guys, we got drafted together, and we've been through OTA's together and all of the offseason workouts and all that stuff together. It feels good to see all that hard work and all that dedication that we put in, to see the young guys out on the field making plays and making an impact."

Friday, Dec. 2: Toews vs. Matthews

Friday, Dec. 2: Toews vs. Matthews

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading, while everybody in New England is in mourning over the latest Gronk booboo. 

*A pretty neat sharpshooting video with Jonathan Toews and that young whippersnapper Auston Matthews squaring off against each other. 

*Craig Custance looks a little deeper into the situation with the Florida Panthers and how things are stabilizing after the rough firing of Gerard Gallant last week. 

*Now. let’s get to the real important stuff: the San Jose Sharks website has put together their Movember rankings for the player’s mustaches. 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Bruce Garrioch says that the plans for an outdoor game in Ottawa are again back on the NHL’s agenda. 

*Erik Erlendsson has put together a “Lightning Insider” website where you can find all the latest news about the Tampa Bay franchise. Check it out. 

*As guys such as Anton Khudobin prove when they’re thrust into the starting spot, backup goalies matter in today’s NHL. 

*For something completely different: a mash-up of Kylo Ren and “Girls” from the mad mind of Adam Driver is exactly just that. 

 

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

Chara ‘feels better’ as he closes in on return, but won’t play in Buffalo

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Zdeno Chara said he is “feeling better” after going through a full practice with the Bruins, but the captain won’t be making the one game road trip to Buffalo for Saturday afternoon’s matinee game vs. the Sabres. 

Chara was going through line rushes and battle drills with the rest of his teammates while practicing for the second day in a row, but made it clear that his lower body injury hasn’t been cleared for game action yet. 

“It’s day-to-day. It feels better…yeah. But it’s still day-to-day,” said a rather laconic Chara when it came to questions about his injury. “It would feel much better [to play] than it feels [not playing].”

Claude Julien said his 39-year-old defenseman has moved into true “day-to-day” status as he nears a return after missing what will be his sixth game in a row on Saturday afternoon, but that he isn’t quite ready to go just yet.

“[Chara] and [Noel] Acciari won’t be on the trip,” said Julien. “I think [Chara] is getting pretty close. When you see him at practice things are going pretty well for him. I think that the term day-to-day is fitting for him right now. A lot of times when we say day-to-day we don’t know whether it’s going to be two days, three days or even a week. But in his case I would say that day-to-day is really day-to-day now with him.” 

One thing the Bruins can be heartened by is that they’ve managed to survive without Chara: the B’s have gone 2-2-1 and allowed just nine goals in the five games since their No. 1 defenseman went down. They have been able to continue collecting points in sometimes ugly, workmanlike fashion. 

That gives the Bruins the luxury of not rushing their D-man along before he’s ready and gives some of their other defensemen added confidence that they can effectively do the job with or without their 6-foot-9 stopper.