Donnie Fletcher not dwelling on Combine snub


Donnie Fletcher not dwelling on Combine snub

In the summer of 2011, the NFL lockout forced many eyes onto scouting the college crop earlier than usual. Boston College senior Donnie Fletcher ended up on multiple must-watch lists, citing his size (6-0, 199-pounds), fluidity, and ability to stop the run as reasons to pick him up in the 2012 Draft. The kid was on top of his game with a year left to play.

Fletcher suffered a back injury before the season even began.

He sat out just one game, BC's opener against Norwestern, before returning as a starter. But Fletcher didn't seem the same. His senior season stats -- 35 tackles, two interceptions, five pass breakups -- pale in comparison to those posted in an impressive junior campaign (58, five, three).

"Last year was a real humbling experience for me. I had to take kind of a back seat," Fletcher said Wednesday at BC Pro Day. "I was always the starter from freshman year, but once I got hurt I was on the sideline more, watching, not being able to play. I had to take more of a coaching to the younger guys in front of me."

Still, an invite to the Senior Bowl arrived in January. It was invite to the NFL Scouting Combine that never came. Fletcher doesn't deny the snub stung, but said he's using it as fuel.

"I was a little disappointed," he said. "Every year I look on NFL Network and see those DBs working out and end up seeing them go in the Draft. But when I didn't get the invite I was just like, 'I can only control what I can control,' and that's my Pro Day. I just took it as it came. I just worked a little harder; it gave me a little bit more motivation. I just try to take the positive out of what was given to me."

Fletcher spent time training at Fischer Sports Institute in Arizona. Three days a week he punched the clock, working out three times a day from 9-5. He got his 40-yard dash time down from 4.5 at his junior Pro Day, to a blazing 4.38 this year. The 17 reps he did on the 225-pound bench press are another point of pride.

At least one team has noticed his effort; Seattle will host Fletcher for a workout on April 9.

The cornerback hopes more phone calls will fill out the five weeks between now and the Draft. He hopes teams will watch film of his freshman and sophomore year coverage against guys like Hakeem Nicks, Golden Tate, and Torrey Smith.

Until then he'll continue to "work hard, stay humble." Just check his Twitter feed, you'll see the phrase repeated over and over as though determination and discipline will push him through.

Wednesday, a weary Fletcher smiled at the thought.

"That's my little motto. In this game it's easy for you to not be humble when you're given all these blessings. So I just try to work as hard as I can, but also stay as humble as I can throughout the whole process."

Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient


Still looking for first point, Heinen stays patient

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- It may be strictly due to injuries or because Ryan Spooner is being moved back to third line center full-time, but Danton Heinen is going to get another top-six look on the wing. The 21-year-old Bruins prospect will be skating on the left wing with David Krejci and Matt Beleskey in Tuesday night’s game against the Minnesota Wild after serving as a healthy scratch last weekend against the Montreal Canadiens.

Heinen has only two shots on goal in the four games leading up to the scratch, and has been quiet offensively after leading the Bruins in goal-scoring during the preseason. Clearly there’s an adjustment to be made there, and it looked like the playmaking rookie winger was starting to develop a little more confidence trying to make plays while skating with Krejci and David Backes in last week’s win over the New Jersey Devils.

Heinen actually looked reminiscent of Krejci on a couple of plays, pulling back the puck after entering the zone and catching a trailing B’s teammate with a perfectly executed lead pass on the offensive rush. That effort plus a trip to the ninth floor press box last weekend seemed to reinforce just how much time he has to make plays, and that should be a benefit for both Heinen and his linemates.

Sometimes getting that first NHL point is the hardest part when a player breaks into the league, and it’s been that way for the young winger through his first four games.

“[Krejci] is such a good player, and I just try to complement him any way I can,” said Heinen. “You never want to be up in the press box, but it gives you a different perspective on the game. It’s a different angle. From up there it looks like you’ve got way more time. I definitely think I can be more patient with the puck, and make some smarter plays.”

Heinen started to do that in his best NHL game to date prior to being scratched against New Jersey, and it resulted in greater offensive possession and a couple of potential scoring plays getting created for the B’s second line. Unfortunately it didn’t lead to actual goals, and Heinen knows that’s what needs to happen through him if a player like him, with an offense-minded reputation from his University of Denver days, is going to stick top-6 in Boston.

“You can’t rely on the [top] guys every night,” said Heinen, who watched the Habs beat the Bruins on Saturday night while essentially shutting down Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. “When we’ve been out there we’ve kind of been getting some chances, but we’ve got to bear down.

“[Krejci] likes to play with the puck a lot, so you just get him the puck, go in hard on the forecheck and try to get open because he’s a good distributor.”

It sounds like a simple plan that might be a very good thing for young Heinen, who needs to start breaking through offensively if he wants to stick around in Boston for the long haul. 

Belichick doesn't rule out possibility of Lewis practicing this week


Belichick doesn't rule out possibility of Lewis practicing this week

Last week, when Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if his team would have guard Tre' Jackson or running back Dion Lewis available at practice, Belichick said "probably not." For him, that's about as definitive as it gets. 

This week, it's a different story. 

Belichick was asked on Tuesday if the Patriots would "start the clock" on Lewis and Jackson, both of whom have been on the physically unable to perform list since training camp. The Patriots have five more weeks to determine whether or not they would like to have Lewis or Jackson practice. Once they do begin practicing, the clock starts, and the team will have three weeks to activate them. 

"We’ll have to talk with our medical and conditioning staff and kind of get a sense of where everybody is, and then figure that out from when practice starts on Wednesday," Belichick said. "So we’ll take a look at that information and see where we are, and then make a decision on it prior to Wednesday’s practice."

It wasn't a confirmation that either player would practice, but it wasn't "probably not," either.