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." 

Sox hope to bring David Ortiz back to Boston for new role

Sox hope to bring David Ortiz back to Boston for new role

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- David Oritz’s time in Boston as a player is over. He continues to say there’s no Brett Favre-type comeback, no matter how many people ask him.

However, that doesn’t mean his time with the Red Sox is over.

Sam Kennedy, Tom Werner and Dave Dombrowski are heading down to the Dominican Republic to tour the team’s academy on the island to see what changes, if any, need to be made.

Ortiz will join them on those tours.

“He’s just a good guy to go to the Dominican with,” Kennedy said. “We thought it’d be great to catch up. Haven’t seen him since before the holidays.”

But the front office members intend to exchange more than just pleasantries and stories from the holiday season. One goal on the trip is to bring Ortiz back to the organization as an employee.

“Yeah that’s something on the agenda,” Kennedy said. “We’re gonna talk about what he may or may not want to do. He did say after the season let’s just talk in January. He was so overwhelmed and tired so it’s a good time to start those conversations.

“I know he has a lot of plans, broadcasting, a lot of businesses he’s involved with and we’ll see what he’s up to. But we hope to cement something so he’s a part of the organization.”

What role that is yet to be determined. Assuming he doesn’t pursue a broadcasting career.

“I truly don’t know what’s on his mind,” Kennedy said. “He’ll obviously be good at whatever he decides to do, but I would hope that we could create a role where he has influence in the baseball operations side, he has influence in marketing, as an ambassador. A lot of our alums we’ve found really enjoy working with young players. Pedro [Martinez] is a perfect example of that.

“So we’ll see what he’s interested in doing, but I have heard him talk about broadcasting in the past and I think he’d be great at it if he decides to do it.”

Swihart, Wright fully recovered for Red Sox' spring training

Swihart, Wright fully recovered for Red Sox' spring training

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Dave Dombrowski told reporters at the Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods both Steven Wright and Blake Swihart are ready to go for spring training.

Wright suffered a shoulder injury from sliding back into second as a pinch runner against the Dodgers in August, ending his All-Star season far too soon. The knuckleballer went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 24 starts last season.

“His shoulder has been feeling good,” Dombrowski said of Wright, who was not at the event due to a prior engagement. “He’s out there throwing, so he feels good.”

Swihart saw his season end even sooner than Wright, after spraining his left ankle June 4 tracking down a foul ball in left field near the wall at Fenway Park. He played in only 19 games last season. 

“[Swihart] said he feels great,” Dombrowski said. “He’s going right from here down to Florida and he said he’s ready to go.”

Swihart will move back to the catcher position for spring training, with his goal of winning the job over Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez. The ankle might’ve been a cause for concern had the Red Sox handled the situation differently, but by all accounts he’s OK to catch again.

“They tell me [there’s no reason for concern],” Dombrowski said. “I guess I’m really not knowledgeable to say that, but the doctors and trainers have told me no.

"That’s why they went and had the surgery because they felt the way the tendon kept slipping that [there was a] possibility it would bother him more. But after the surgery now, they feel there will not be any problems in that regard.”