It's never good when a star WR has infected foot


It's never good when a star WR has infected foot

From Comcast SportsNetCHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Steve Smith was on crutches after being treated for what the Carolina Panthers described as a left foot infection. Coach Ron Rivera says Smith is being treated with antibiotics, but the wide receiver's status for the remainder of the preseason is unknown. Smith was seen walking around the stadium on crutches, but was unavailable for comment Wednesday. Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason was also held out of practice with a strained hamstring. The Panthers (No. 20 in the AP Pro32) face the New York Jets on Sunday and then wrap up the preseason the following Thursday against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Panthers could decide to hold both star players out until the regular season. Rivera says Carolina's starters will play into the third quarter Sunday.

Blount powers his way to new career-high in return to Pittsburgh


Blount powers his way to new career-high in return to Pittsburgh

LeGarrette Blount's performance at Heinz Field was an ironic one because the 24 carries he received in New England's 27-16 win over Pittsburgh was more than twice the number of carries he got during his busiest days as a member of the Steelers in 2014.

Blount signed with Pittsburgh as a free agent in 2014, believing he would be a significant part of the organization's plans. He found out relatively quickly that he was not -- not as long as Le'Veon Bell was in town and running well, at least. He averaged just six carries in his 11 games with the Steelers, and he was cut after he walked off the sidelines, frustrated by his lack of playing time, before a Monday night win over the Titans was over.

The Patriots quickly moved to sign Blount, and the match between player and organization has been a fit ever since. There are days where the football is in quarterback Tom Brady's hands for long stretches, and there are days where Blount is leaned on.

"As a running back, you always want the football," he said. "If we have 80 plays, you're going to want 80 carries. You just gotta be patient. When the opportunity presents itself, you just gotta make the most of it."

Sunday presented Blount with his share of opportunities and he capitalized. He ran for 127 yards (a 5.3 yards-per-carry average) and two scores against the Steelers, helping keep an aggressive defense at bay, and punishing his former coach Mike Tomlin for flooding the field with defensive backs when Patriots tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett were on the field.

"LG ran hard," Bill Belichick said. "Good ball-security. Good pad level. Made some tough yards, and he made a couple big-play, kind of explosive runs . . . He gave us some explosive plays, and we needed that, particularly when they cut it to a four-point game."

The Steelers made it a four-point game with a field goal before halftime, and then they made it a one-point game when they got another Chris Boswell kick to make the score, 14-13. That's when New England's 250-pound back came up large.

He ripped off gains of 11 yards, then 25 yards. Three plays later, Gronkowski was in the end zone on a 36-yard strike from Tom Brady.

"I thought we ran the ball great on that drive," Brady said. "We really got a hat on a hat and it gave LeGarrette some space to run. He's just so deceptive with his quickness. He's a big back but he's got great agility. He makes yards after contact. He gets guys in space and does a great job attacking the creases there. He had a great day today."

Belichick said those long carries helped "settle" things down as it kept the Steelers pass-rush on its heels when the Patriots were pressing to extend their lead.

"He gave us a couple of big runs there to . . . settle things down where it wasn't just a pass-rush game for them all day," Belichick said. "They had some good pressure early in the third quarter, kind of got us in some long-yardage situations. Holding penalties. Hit the quarterback. Forced the ball out quick. So his runs were able to settle us down. I thought our offensive line came through with some good blocking, as well as our receivers and the tight ends, obviously. We ran behind Marty and Rob a lot."

Through seven games, Blount already has a career-high for rushing touchdowns with eight. He's on pace to find the end zone 18 times, which would best Curtis Martin's franchise record of 14 scores in a single season. 

"We went in there with a game plan," Blount said. "We stuck to it, and we came out with a win."