Valentine on Robinson: Baseball needed him

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Valentine on Robinson: Baseball needed him

BOSTON -- Major League Baseball will pay tribute to the late Jackie Robinson Sunday, with players on every team wearing uniform No. 42 in honor of the player who broke the color barrier in baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers 65 years ago.

"Obviously, Jackie Robinson did what was needed for the game of baseball and did what was needed for America,'' said manager Bobby Valentine. "He was exactly the right guy to do the exact right thing. (Former Dodgers executive) Branch Rickey chose him and he took a big step forward for mankind.''

Valentine has more of a connection to Robinson than most. Robinson lived in Stamford, Conn., Valentine's hometown, after his retirement and Valentine met him on several occasions.

After Robinson passed away, Valentine came to know Robinson's widow Rachel and his daughter Sharon in several charitable endeavors.

Further, Valentine's father-in-law, former Dodger pitcher Ralph Branca, was a teammate of Robinson's.

"Ralph's the last living member of the 1947 Dodger team,'' said Valentine. "Ralph was one of those guys that welcomed him . . . Ralph's talked about those experiences as much as anything he's talked about in his life. It was obviously traumatic. Ralph takes great pride in being part of what was going on then and understanding the difference between right and wrong.''

Valentine has heard lots of stories from Robinson's first few seasons and "most of them were ugly. Most of the things that Ralph related were things that I'm anything but proud to have heard. But he endured. It's really amazing. There are books and movies and legend but I think what Jackie did is beyond all of that.''

Valentine was manager of the New York Mets when MLB officially retired Robinson's No. 42 and remembers that as "one of the great days for baseball.''

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)