McCourty shrugs off injury, pressure to bounce back

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McCourty shrugs off injury, pressure to bounce back

FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty is on the hot seat in 2012.
The cornerback's sophomore year was almost as bad as his rookie year was good. From Pro Bowler to near-bust: a late-season move to free safety in 2011 signaled him a liability.
It's because he set the bar so high to start that his fall was impossible to comprehend.
Even when McCourty did stay with his man, if the footwork was good, he just couldn't make a play on the ball. Only one player surrendered more yardage last season (Green Bay'sTramon Williams) than McCourty's 1,004. Opponents caught 62 balls of the 101 they were targeted for against him. And the average quarterback rating against McCourty? 106.2.
But he kept his head up through it all.
A first-year captain, McCourty remained accountable after every game no matter what the damage.
Negativity only would have made things worse.
"It's football; you've got to keep playing," he said Thursday. "Once you doubt yourself, you might as well just ask not to be on the field.
"Same approach I had last year and coming into my rookie year is the same now: I'm just trying to improve each day here. So far, that's worked for me, just improving and learning form other guys. I think that's what I'll stick to and just keep working on."
It's fair to wonder if the shoulder separation McCourty suffered in New England's Week 5 tilt against the Jets dogged him for the rest of the season.
But when offered the excuse, he waved it off.
McCourty said he knew immediately upon colliding with teammate Sterling Moore that something was very, very wrong. Still, he insists the worst of the pain was felt on the walk back to the locker room -- that, after that moment, it just kept getting better.
"It hurt to move probably the first week," he admitted. "But after that it was just kind of strengthening it and going through the whole process of building it back up. I think the biggest thing that's helped me is the time and steady working at it.
"It was tough, but I thought I was fortunate that it wasn't something really serious that could have ended the season or something like that. I try to see the positive in every situation."
What about those post-game moments when he looked pained just reaching into his locker?
"That's just the way it looked," he said tightly. "It felt alright."
McCourty can dismiss the injury if he wants -- the analysts will only be harder on him. Not that he cares. The cornerback shrugged at the pressure being put on him in print.
"I see it as, everybody has a job. Our job is to play football; your guys' job is to watch and judge on what you see, and make opinions, and talk on what's out there. I just think about it that way: everyone has their own job to do. "
The Patriots only care McCourty does his.

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)