Light's delight at returning to Pats shines through


Light's delight at returning to Pats shines through

By Tom E. Curran Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
FOXBORO - Maybe Matt Light could have signed somewhere else. A left tackle with his track record of success and leadership in the NFL? It wouldn't have been hard to find a market. But he didn't sound Wednesday night as if he were ever inclined to look for another employer. Asked how happy he was to have signed his two-year deal to get off the free agent market and return to protect Tom Brady's blind side, Light answered, "At the end of the day, its more this organization. I shared with the Kraft family what it meant for me to be a part of this over the last decade. The caliber of player that they bring in, the work ethic, the expectations and everything all wrapped into one --theres a reason why weve been successful and theres a reason why guys want to play here. Again, like I said, Im just happy to be part of it for another year or two."A few other interesting nuggets from Light's pre-practice talk with media. ON THE PATRIOTS SIGNING ALBERT HAYNESWORTH AND CHAD OCHOCINCO"You know, Im never surprised at what they do. They bring in quality guys. Trust me, having played against Albert Haynesworth and knowing what he can do on the field, thats going to be a big boost for our defensive line. Seeing what Chad Ochocinco can do on the field, thats obvious as well. So I think everybodys really excited about both of those guys, as well some of these rookies and the other free agents that have come in." ON THE DEPARTURE OF TY WARREN"Its always tough. Look, Ty Warrens a real guy. I mean, hes real in every sense. Hes got a big heart, he did a lot for the community around here and hes definitely going to be a guy that were going to miss playing with. Hopefully hell go out there and land on a team where he can go out there and do what he does best. Obviously hes a great player." (Note: Warren has signed with the Broncos). ON ROBERT KRAFT'S ROLE IN ATTAINING LABOR PEACE"I think from day one, even if it went back to last season, it was always Get the lawyers out of the room, lets get together, lets sit down and lets have a real conversation. I guess thats a hard thing to do, but he was the only one who was really able to make that happen. I think what you saw with Jeff Saturday and some of the other guys on the Executive Committee -- their reaction towards his involvement speaks volumes. I know that when we went to the meetings, they let me know how important it was to have him in that room and what kind of leadership and just real experience he brought to the whole conversation, which really was a thing that was really lacking for a long time. Were all grateful that that happened."

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Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'


Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower is coming off of one of the best games of his career, and he did it while running the Patriots defensive huddle without the help of his on-the-field partner at the linebacker level.

"It’s a lot more fluent having Jamie [Collins] out there," Hightower said on Wednesday. "A lot of the times we coordinate things a lot together. I usually take care of the front, he takes care of the secondary. We have our own way of doing things. Sometimes Jamie is just like, ‘No, you go ahead and you just make the calls and I’ll play off of you.’

"It helps having him out there. I mean, he does everything so he makes it a lot easier for me. Anytime I can have him out there with me, I’m 100 percent having him out there."

Hightower has plenty of experience playing without Collins, however, and Collins is accustomed to having to go without Hightower. Both had issues staying on the field in 2015, and although it's early, that trend has continued this season.

Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 due to a knee injury, and Collins missed Week 6 with a hip issue, meaning the duo has been available to coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia only three times this year. 

Last season the pair was active for 10 of 18 games, including both playoff games, and during a Week 5 win over the Cowboys, Hightower played just nine snaps. Collins dealt with an illness that kept him out for four games last season, and Hightower, as has been the case for much of his career, was limited by (and often played through) myriad ailments.

Both are vital to the long-term success of the Patriots defense in 2016, but it's been hit-or-miss as to when they'll be out there to play off of one another as Hightower described.

"Our linebackers, Jamie, Dont'a, they're two of the best in the league," said safety Duron Harmon following Hightower's dominating performance against the Bengals in Week 6. "Any time we can have those guys out there, they just continue to create havoc.

"They make plays, they make it easier for us, especially me. The quarterback can't look off as long when Dont'a's all in his face -- him and Jamie. Having him on the field is a plus. And when you get both of them on the field it's a double-plus."

And therein lies the issue: Having both Hightower and Collins out there together has felt like a luxury rather than the norm. 

At some point, the Patriots will have to make decisions as to what they'll do at the linebacker level for the foreseeable future. Both Hightower and Collins are slated to hit free-agency, and their durability will certainly factor into the equation when the Patriots make them offers to stick in New England.

Until then, though, both will work to be available as often as possible -- both for their team's sake and their own as they eye new deals -- where they can stress opposing offenses at a degree to which most linebacker combinations around the league can only aspire. 

"With us out there we’re able to do a lot of different things, [we have] a lot of versatility," Hightower said. "So hopefully we can both stay out there."

Hightower was removed from the Patriots injury report last week, meaning he's able to take on a full workload in practice. Collins, meanwhile, continues to be limited in practice, and his availability for Sunday's game with the Steelers is not yet known. In place of Collins, sixth-round rookie Elandon Roberts earned the bulk of the playing time against the Bengals last week. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo saw a season-high eight defensive snaps in the win. 

Thursday's Patriots-Steelers practice report: Garoppolo off the list


Thursday's Patriots-Steelers practice report: Garoppolo off the list

FOXBORO -- The Patriots injury report shrunk again on Thursday. 

One day after Rob Gronkowski was removed from the injury report, the Patriots were able to take backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo off. 

Garoppolo injured his shoulder in a Week 2 win over the Dolphins and then missed the following two games, giving way to rookie third-rounder Jacoby Brissett. He has been limited in practice ever since being driven into the ground by Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Here is Thursday's full practice participation/injury report for the Patriots and Steelers:


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Jamie Collins (hip)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder)
LB Shea McClellin (concussion)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
DL Vincent Valentine (back)


T Marcus Gilbert (ankle)
DE Cameron Heyward (hamstring)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (left knee)
S Shamarko Thomas (groin)
C Cody Wallace (knee)
WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder)
RB DeAngelo Williams (knee)

S Robert Golden (foot)
S Michael Mitchell (knee)
LB Ryan Shazier (knee)