Fells could provide leadership for young tight ends

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Fells could provide leadership for young tight ends

FOXBORO -- The full Gronkowski Experience has not yet hit new tight end Daniel Fells. How to be sure? Fells had to ask.

"Him and Aaron Hernandez . . . I've heard stories about both those guys," Fells laughed. "But they're good guys. They're competitors. They're out here and they're working hard so that's always a good thing."

So it seems Gronkowski got the watermelon spiking, scooter rides, and Zubaz pants out of his system before OTAs.
Indeed, Fells has nothing but respect for New England's tremendous tight end tandem. Their on-field production in 2011 -- 169 catches for 2,237 yards and 24 touchdowns -- impressed Fells as a testament to New England's brilliant manipulation of the offense.

"They're both real good tight ends," Fells said. "They went out there and they produce. They're two of the top guys in the league. But, traditionally, just looking at this offense, Tom Brady's going to find the open man and that's something that appeals to everybody."

One has to think Fells can provide a positive influence for the younger tight ends the way Alge Crumpler did in the duo's rookie year. Fells learned from Crumpler himself, during his first NFL season. They shared one year-and-a-half in Atlanta, and the way Fells tells it, the relationship was priceless.

Just coming in as a rookie, you don't know what to expect. I went into Atlanta not knowing if guys are going to try to sabotage you, because you're competing. That's what it's all about, because you're competing for a job, for a position, so you don't really know if you can trust anybody. But Alge welcomed everybody with open arms.

"He's the type of guy who had me over to his house for Thanksgiving," Fells said. "He had his family in town and I didn't have any family in Atlanta and I wasn't going home. He invited me over to his house and fed me. He made the Pro Bowl that year and took all his tight ends out to Hawaii with him. Paid for the flight and everything. That's just the type of person that he was. Very giving and very humble about all his blessings. I just learned a lot from him."

That kind of presence Crumpler was for Fells -- supportive, gracious -- is what Fells can be for Gronkowski and Hernandez. And it sounds like that's where he's comfortable. Fells is first concerned with proving himself a productive player in New England -- something the other tight ends have already done.

"I can just go out here and be me That's what's gotten me around the league. That's what's gotten me to the point of being able to play for seven years is just going out and being myself, being professional. Just doing my job.

"As far as guiding those two? Like I said, they are two great athletes, two great competitors. I don't really need to guide them in that sense. I'm just going to go out here and try and fill in where I can."

It will be an interesting dynamic, at least.

Fells is a guy nicknamed "Rev" at UC Davis because his demeanor matched that of Jerry Harris from the movie "Remember the Titans." You know, the the football player who aspired to be . . . a reverend.

Sound like Gronknandez to you? Not really.

"I'm a little bit older. I've been around the block," Fells said, laughing at the reputation of his new teammates. "I was young once myself, but now I'm married and have a son. Things change. Times change. They'll grow up. They're enjoying their youth right now."

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)