Hightower acknowledges mental endurance test of rookie year


Hightower acknowledges mental endurance test of rookie year

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." 

Patriots list nine as questionable, including Bennett, Edelman and Collins


Patriots list nine as questionable, including Bennett, Edelman and Collins

FOXBORO -- The Patriots listed nine players on their injury report after Friday's practice, deeming them all "questionable" for Sunday's game against the Steelers. 

The most notable names on the list are those of tight end Martellus Bennett, linebacker Jamie Collins and receiver Julian Edelman.

Bennett and Collins have been listed on the injury report since before last weekend's win over the Bengals. Bennett was able to play through his ankle issue, whereas Collins dealt with a hip injury that kept him out. Edelman, meanwhile, has been on the injury report since prior to New England's Week 5 win over Cleveland, but he has played in 81 percent of his team's offensive snaps over the last two weeks.

Patriots rookie linebacker Elandon Roberts, who has opened some eyes with his play over the course of the last two weeks, is also listed as questionable due to an ankle issue. Bill Belichick's club could be left thin at the linebacker level should both Roberts and Collins be at all limited, potentially leaving Barkevious Mingo, Rob Ninkovich and Shea McClellin to see more time next to Dont'a Hightower as off-the-line 'backers. 


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Jamie Collins (hip)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder)
LB Shea McClellin (concussion)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
DL Vincent Valentine (back)


T Marcus Gilbert (ankle)
DE Cameron Heyward (hamstring)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (left knee)
S Shamarko Thomas (groin)
C Cody Wallace (knee)
WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder)
RB DeAngelo Williams (knee)

Smart yet to be ruled out of Celtics’ opener


Smart yet to be ruled out of Celtics’ opener

WALTHAM, Mass. – Marcus Smart remains out with a left ankle sprain injury sustained earlier this week, but has yet to be ruled out for the season opener against Brooklyn next week.

An MRI came back negative on Smart’s ankle, which was good news.

But there’s still a high level of uncertainty as to whether Smart will heal in time for the team’s opener at home against Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

He sprained the left ankle in the second quarter of a 121-96 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday when he stepped on the foot of Knicks guard Justin Holiday.

Smart fell to the floor and was helped to his feet by teammates Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas in addition to the team’s head trainer Ed Lacerte.

The Celtics are indeed hopeful he will heal in time to play next week, but league sources indicate it’s doubtful due to the nature of the injury and Smart’s history with left ankle sprains.

He sustained one in his rookie season and it kept him out for several weeks and he has had a few minor ankle sprains since then.

Even if he shows signs of being healthy enough to play prior to the opener, the Celtics are likely to be overly cautious to best insure that when he does return he does not re-aggravate the ankle.

Smart appeared in all seven preseason games for the Celtics this season, averaging 8.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Smart shot 42 percent from the field, but struggled mightily from 3-point range while connecting on just 13.6 percent of his 3-point shot attempts.

If Smart is unable to play in the opener or potentially longer, look for the Celtics to lean heavily on Terry Rozier who has been the breakout performer for Boston in the summer and in camp.

“I’m just trying to do whatever they need me to do, to help us win games,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “I’m feeling good, real good about where my game’s at now. Obviously we’re a better team in every way, with Marcus out there. But if he’s not ready to go, the next man up has to get the job done. If that’s me, it’s me. I’ll be ready.”