Crawford looks to put last season behind him

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Crawford looks to put last season behind him

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Right from the start, Carl Crawford's initial season with the Red Sox took a wrong turn.

Crawford found himself dropped in the batting order after just two games and never seemed to recover, posting career lows in batting average, stolen bases and other offensive categories.

Now beginning his second year, Crawford can't wait to put 2011 behind him.

"Last year was probably one of the toughest things I ever had to go through,'' said Crawford. "For whatever reason it was, I struggled. It was really hard to deal with. I've had a lot of time to think about it and make corrections and I think things will be better.

"The main thing is to put last season behind and start fresh. That was bad. Everyone saw what happened. It was well documented. The main thing is to let that go and try to start over and do what I normally did the past nine years.''

Compounding matters for Crawford is that he reports to camp at less than 100 percent, having undergone surgery to repair a tendon in his left wrist last month.

It was something that he dealt with periodically in 2011, but he refused to cite that as the main reason for his disappointing season.

"I think I was out of whack in so many ways last year that the wrist was minor,'' he said. "I don't think (the wrist) had too much to do with (the subpar season).''

Crawford used the off-season to analyze why things went wrong and fix his approach at the plate and swing and believes he's found some answers.

"I went back and had a bunch of things to correct, actually,'' he said. "I was able to think about it. Hopefully, I'll do better this year. My mecahnics were just not what they should have been. For whatever reason, it wasn't normal.''

After viewing lots of video in the off-season, Craford determined that his stance, always open, was too wide.

"It seemed like I was late all the time,'' he said. "I'm going to try to do a better job getting ready (to swing) -- little stuff like that is going to help me get over that hump.''

More than any physical issues, Crawford now believes that the problems were mental.

"I think I put a lot of pressure on myself last year,'' he said. "I never played that way before, so I'm just going to stay relaxed and be myself.''

For now, it's unclear where Crawford will bat in the Red Sox lineup. For much of last year, he hit sixth or seventh and never really found a comfort factor.

"That's the big question,'' he said. "I'm not sure where Bobby (Valentine) wants to hit me. Ideally, I've always hit at the top of the order. I don't know where he's going to put me. We'll just have to wait and see.''

Before Crawford can go about the business of preparing for 2012, however, he first must make sure that his wrist is 100 percent.

"It's getting better,'' reported Crawford. "I don't really know when it will be all the way healthy, but right now, it definitely feels better than what it was and we'll continue to build the strength up.

"I don't think (the injury) is a real big deal like everybody might be thinking. It's just going to take a little bit of time to get it right. If I thought it was something dramatic, something really, really bad, I'd be worried. But I don't think this is a problem that's going to set me back.''

For now, Crawford isn't cleared to swing a bat, but hopes that comes soon.

"I think it should be pretty soon,'' he said. "I definitely feel good about it. Once me and the trainers talk about it and both feel good about it, it should be pretty soon.

"I definitely want to be back on the field as soon as possible, so I want to channel my feelings and make sure I do the right thing.''

Last week, Valentine said he expected that Crawford might miss "a few weeks'' at the start of the season, but the outfielder's objective is to be in the lineup April 5 in Detroit.

"In my mind, I think the odds are good,'' he said. "That's my goal right now, to make it for Opening Day.''

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)