Stallworth disappointed high ankle sprain ended his season

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Stallworth disappointed high ankle sprain ended his season

FOXBORO -- Donte' Stallworth's season lasted just twenty plays, the last one an electrifying one-handed catch-and-run that resulted in a 63-yard touchdown to help the Patriots beat the Texans on Monday night, 42-14.

It was a proud moment for him. After being released at the end of Patriots training camp, he spent three months waiting for a chance to join an NFL team. When the Patriots finally brought him back, he worked around the clock with hope that he would make an impact against Houston, and he did.

His adrenaline was pumping after the score. He was excited to make such a grand entrance back into NFL relevance.

Then he got to the Patriots sideline.

"When I sat down it felt like somebody lit a blow torch on my foot," he said. "That's when I realized something wasn't right."

Stallworth suffered what he says is a high-ankle sprain when he was tackled going into the end zone. He was told the normal recovery time for that type of injury would be about 3-4 weeks, and he knew, at this point in the year, the team would likely place him on injured reserve. That's exactly what they did on Tuesday, ending his season.

"Bill Belichick does a great job of communicating. He brought me in his office well before that happened and he explained to me, you know, the situation moving forward," Stallworth said. "I completely agreed with his decision.

"Later in the season once you hit December and the end of November, that window kind of closes a little bit. I completely understand why he did it . . . I wasn't disappointed to be going on IR because I knew that was coming for the most part. But I was disappointed for it to happen after preparing for so hard and sitting at home for three months and coming here and getting an opportunity. But you know, I'm definitely grateful for just being here, during that week and being able to participate and play in that game. It's the season I had. I hadn't played all season. It's bittersweet being here, playing in a game, and then leaving the game and not coming back."

The Patriots re-signed receiver Deion Branch this week to help fill out their receiver group.

Stallworth, who had a noticeable limp as he walked around the Patriots locker room on Thursday, said he asked for Belichick's permission to stay around the team and rehab his ankle using its facilities.

Part of the reason he wanted to stay in New England and not return to his home in Miami was because the Patriots offer him an opportunity to receive treatment multiple times a day. The other reason was because if he had left, he would have missed the locker room atmosphere that he worked so hard to get back to this season.

"Just being able to be around the team," Stallworth said. "It's one of the things, whenever guys retire or when they're no longer in the game, that's one of the things they say they miss the most is the camaraderie and the continuity of being on a team and in a locker room. You come to become really good friends with the guys and it's similar to being family."

Stallworth said he hopes to stay on track with his rehab but he's in no rush for it to heal. Though he's disappointed at how he was hurled back to earth after the most uplifting moment of his season, he was grateful that the injury wasn't worse.

Someone sent him a picture online of how his ankle was bent awkwardly on the touchdown.

"It could have been horrible," Stallworth said. "I think that's one of the things that's helping me not be so disappointed. It definitely could've been worse, really bad, just by looking at the picture. So I just try to maintain an air of positivity around here. I don't wanna be walking around depressed or anything like that. Just try to stay positive around everyone."

This week is especially difficult for Stallworth since he grew up in Sacramento as a San Francisco 49ers fan.  

"I have a lot of family and friends who are 49er fans, calling me from back home, talking trash," he said with a smile. "So you know, I'd definitely like to shut them up personally."

But he can't. It's a fact that's difficult to accept, but one from which he's trying to move on.

"You just keep moving," he said. "There's been a lot of things that have happened to a lot of good people, a lot of worse things that have happened to a lot of people. There's kids who can't eat everyday, or who aren't healthy, or don't have all their limbs. I don't look at it like I'm snake-bitten, but more so it's an unfortunate situation and try to take the positive and continue moving forward from there."

Kraft, Pats still bitter: NFL 'really messed this up badly'

Kraft, Pats still bitter: NFL 'really messed this up badly'

It's been almost two years exactly since the Deflategate saga began during the AFC title game between the Colts and Patriots on Jan. 18, 2015.

Since then, Robert Kraft has expressed his displeasure at how the whole thing was handled by the league -- particularly as it relates to the treatment of quarterback Tom Brady -- on multiple occasions. And according to a story in the New York Times, that feeling hasn't subsided.

"Sometimes, the league really messes up, and I think they really messed this up badly," said Kraft . "But we’ve all agreed to subjugate our right to disrupt everything.

"I mean, we can, but we’re a partnership. There’s jealousy, there’s envy, there’s stupidity. Sometimes, life is unfair, and you have to suck it up and move on and not use it as an excuse."

Brady served his four-game suspension to start this season, and Kraft opted to accept the league's punishment for the team following the 2014 season: They were docked two draft picks (a first and a fourth) and fined $1 million.

The piece includes Kraft's thoughts on President-elect Donald Trump ("Loyalty is important to me, and he has been a wonderful friend," Kraft said), as well as comments from others on how Kraft has handled his situation ("I think Bob has exhibited disagreement, but he’s also very capable of making and influencing change," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said). 

You can read the full piece here.

Bell excused from Steelers practice for 'personal reasons'

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Bell excused from Steelers practice for 'personal reasons'

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have had perfect attendance at each of their last two practices. The Steelers, on the other hand, have been working with less than a full deck.

All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell has been conspiculously absent from Pittsburgh's practices each of the last two days. On Wednesday, he was listed on the injury report as a non-participant due to non-injury related reasons. On Thursday, coach Mike Tomlin announced that Bell had been excused from practice due to "personal reasons."

Tomlin added that Bell will be ready to go against the Patriots on Sunday so it seems as though the team is painting this as a nothing-to-see-here situation. And it probably is. Whether or not Bell practices at all this week won't necessarily have any bearing on the AFC title game; if he's healthy, he'll be a factor. 

If for some reason he doesn't follow up his 170-yard performance against the Chiefs with another strong game, however, people will wonder how his preparation was impacted by missing out on the first two of his team's on-the-field sessions this week.