NFL journeyman Carpenter looks to bring best to Patriots

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NFL journeyman Carpenter looks to bring best to Patriots

FOXBORO -- You probably don't know much about Bobby Carpenter the linebacker.
New England is his fifth team in what will be his seventh year in the league.
"You understand a lot about the NFL," he said this week, of his journeyman role. "You know a lot of people, you know a lot of systems -- which I think helps you out in your preparation. It just kind of gives you a healthy respect for the league and the game and how tough it is to make it."
What you do know about Carpenter wouldn't make him proud.
Maybe you saw that 2008 episode of "Hard Knocks" when Cowboys teammate and right tackle Marc Columbo dubbed him "Barbie Carpenter." Columbo had beaten up on him all practice.
Maybe you remember Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff raising his voice when Dolphins STC John Bonamego was fired. "It's interesting that there was one particular guy that was involved in two of those major breakdowns," Westhoff said. "Frankly, I don't think he could play. I don't want the guy either." Review of the film revealed Carpenter was on both plays.
And you might have heard the term "bust" used in reference to the former first round pick. Several teams had been interested in the Ohio State product. Teams like the Patriots.
"This is one of the places I came up and visited," Carpenter recalls. "Had a good connection here, really liked it. Just ended up going someplace else, but this was a place that was interested in me."
He had met with the lot: linebackers coach Matt Patricia, defensive coordinator Dean Pees, Bill Belichick.
Dallas snapped him up with its 18 overall selection in that 2006 NFL draft (New England picked at 21). What the Cowboys got in return was three starts, 96 total tackles, and 3.5 sacks in four years.
Carpenter was traded to the Rams and released at the end of training camp. Miami picked him up for the first five games of 2010 then cut him.
That's when the Lions gave him new life.
Never a fit in a 3-4 defense, Carpenter appeared more comfortable in Detroit's 4-3 scheme. There he could read and react, use his quickness, know he'd be protected. He played all 16 games in his second year, first full season in Detroit. An interception of old pal Tony Romo and 34-yard touchdown return in 2011 must have been sweet.
Yet he still played less than a quarter of the defensive snaps.
Despite taking steps forward, Carpenter couldn't shore up a starter spot. The Lions dragged their feet when free agency rolled around. New England saw an opening in April and pounced; Carpenter had to pack his bags yet again.
He's dismissive of stability's elusiveness.
"It's not too bad. Each season is kind of a separate year. You take it as it approaches: offseason, training camp, it's all in each individual segment so you try to look at what's in front of you and not too far ahead."
Patriots training camp looms large. Though he's gotten solid snaps off the line during mini-camp, it's in late July that player evaluation gets serious.
Linebackers coach Pepper Johnson likes the potential.
"He's a guy that's a workaholic. He's constantly going. You have to slow him down on the field. I don't want to slow him down, but... " Johnson laughed.
"He's going to be a plus for us -- he already is a plus for us."
If only Carpenter can translate the words into something meaningful. So much of what's been said about him in the last six years has not been kind.
"I just try to go out there and play best I can," said the linebacker. "I don't know if you want to put tags on it -- reporters kind of do better with that. It's a tough game. You try to make plays. However you do it, someone else can say that."
They will. But that hasn't really been the trouble.

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)