Hightower acknowledges mental endurance test of rookie year

Hightower acknowledges mental endurance test of rookie year
December 28, 2012, 8:01 pm
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FOXBORO -- The Patriots have made an appearance in the playoffs in 10 of the last 12 seasons. So it's safe to say Bill Belichick knows a thing or two about coaching in the postseason. 
One thing he's conscious of every single year is how his rookies are holding up. 
Earlier this week, the final week of the regular season, Belichick talked about how wear-and-tear can really show on players at this juncture of the season. And he wasn't just talking about guys getting banged up; one would be hard-pressed to find someone in the locker room who isn't nursing at least a hurt toe. 
The coach was talking about how, even for a top NCAA team like Alabama, the biggest game of the year might be No. 14, that final bowl game. Patriots rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower, former member of the Crimson Tide, is now entering his 17th week of the NFL season and the toughest tests are still ahead. 
It's a different kind of endurance test. 
"Physically its a drain and then mentally it adds up, too," Belichick said. "I think thats the challenge for the rookies: to try to keep bouncing back from that each week and get into a routine so its doesnt get a real high effort one week and then they have to drop way down the next week because they cant sustain it, but to try to be at that high professional level, that 98-, 99-percent level with consistency."
Though Hightower acknowledged the physical demands are greater in the pros, he sounded unfazed. There are practical ways to cope, after all. 
"It's different type of playing styles from NFL to college. But I've had the older guys tell me to take care of my body and what to do, some of the tricks -- get massages, more ice tub, more treatment on small needs, and things like that. I feel pretty good as far as my health and my body goes." 
But he does agree with his coach.
"I feel like it would be more mentally draining than physically. Of course, everybody's physically gifted to be able to get to this point, but mentally, if you can't come in and get treatment and get massages, watch extra film, try to stay on top of things like that -- the mental aspect is definitely the hardest at this point of trying to transform yourself into a professional NFL player."