McQuaid (upper body) missing from practice


McQuaid (upper body) missing from practice

WILMINGTON, MA While Johnny Boychuk and Tuukka Rask made a return to the regular practice session with the Bruins, Bs defenseman Adam McQuaid remains out of the lineup.

McQuaid missed three games after getting blasted from behind on a Jason Chimera charging hit back on March 29, and then lasted slightly more than a period in his first game back against the Ottawa Senators. The Bruins were running under the medical diagnosis that McQuaid simply suffered a bad laceration over his left eye, and that the impact had left his eye swollen shut.

But it appears there is more than that going on. Now Claude Julien admits that McQuaids status is up in the air and that perhaps there is more going on than the original eye injury being disseminated.

The rugged defenseman said he wasnt feeling right at the time of his exit from the win over Ottawa, and hasnt been seen on the ice since. McQuaid has had a history of concussions and neck injuries over the last three years, but the team isnt using the C word to describe the injury.

Its the playoffs, of course, and all injury information is now under top secret lock and key.His situation is up in the air. It could be resolved soon or later, said Claude Julien. Were just being cautious and hes day-to-day. Cautious is the approach the team is taking.Is the team cautiously treating his injury like a concussion?

Chiarelli addressed it yesterday and we keep going back to the same guys. Its day-to-day. Its playoff time and its day-to-day, said Julien. Its an upper body injury. If you really want to ask the question then its an upper-body injury.

The Bruins obviously have plenty of depth along the defensemen corps with Greg Zanon and Mike Mottau in tow, so they have plenty of solutions if McQuaid needs a little time to get back to good health.

Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'


Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower is coming off of one of the best games of his career, and he did it while running the Patriots defensive huddle without the help of his on-the-field partner at the linebacker level.

"It’s a lot more fluent having Jamie [Collins] out there," Hightower said on Wednesday. "A lot of the times we coordinate things a lot together. I usually take care of the front, he takes care of the secondary. We have our own way of doing things. Sometimes Jamie is just like, ‘No, you go ahead and you just make the calls and I’ll play off of you.’

"It helps having him out there. I mean, he does everything so he makes it a lot easier for me. Anytime I can have him out there with me, I’m 100 percent having him out there."

Hightower has plenty of experience playing without Collins, however, and Collins is accustomed to having to go without Hightower. Both had issues staying on the field in 2015, and although it's early, that trend has continued this season.

Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 due to a knee injury, and Collins missed Week 6 with a hip issue, meaning the duo has been available to coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia only three times this year. 

Last season the pair was active for 10 of 18 games, including both playoff games, and during a Week 5 win over the Cowboys, Hightower played just nine snaps. Collins dealt with an illness that kept him out for four games last season, and Hightower, as has been the case for much of his career, was limited by (and often played through) myriad ailments.

Both are vital to the long-term success of the Patriots defense in 2016, but it's been hit-or-miss as to when they'll be out there to play off of one another as Hightower described.

"Our linebackers, Jamie, Dont'a, they're two of the best in the league," said safety Duron Harmon following Hightower's dominating performance against the Bengals in Week 6. "Any time we can have those guys out there, they just continue to create havoc.

"They make plays, they make it easier for us, especially me. The quarterback can't look off as long when Dont'a's all in his face -- him and Jamie. Having him on the field is a plus. And when you get both of them on the field it's a double-plus."

And therein lies the issue: Having both Hightower and Collins out there together has felt like a luxury rather than the norm. 

At some point, the Patriots will have to make decisions as to what they'll do at the linebacker level for the foreseeable future. Both Hightower and Collins are slated to hit free-agency, and their durability will certainly factor into the equation when the Patriots make them offers to stick in New England.

Until then, though, both will work to be available as often as possible -- both for their team's sake and their own as they eye new deals -- where they can stress opposing offenses at a degree to which most linebacker combinations around the league can only aspire. 

"With us out there we’re able to do a lot of different things, [we have] a lot of versatility," Hightower said. "So hopefully we can both stay out there."

Hightower was removed from the Patriots injury report last week, meaning he's able to take on a full workload in practice. Collins, meanwhile, continues to be limited in practice, and his availability for Sunday's game with the Steelers is not yet known. In place of Collins, sixth-round rookie Elandon Roberts earned the bulk of the playing time against the Bengals last week. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo saw a season-high eight defensive snaps in the win.