Dont’a Hightower is clearly thrilled to be back on the field after the frustration of having to sit and watch most of last season on the sidelines.

After making one of the biggest sacks in New England franchise history when he separated Atlanta’s Matt Ryan from the football during New England’s Super Bowl comeback in February 2017 Trent Murphy Color Rush Jersey , Hightower – who had missed three games the previous season with a knee problem – was lost five games into the 2017 schedule with a torn pectoral muscle. Coincidentally, he was hurt against the Falcons.

His absence, felt deeply by a team that came up short defensively in the Super Bowl, wasn’t easy for Hightower to handle – even if it’s something he had gotten used to.

”Absolutely,” the linebacker and defensive captain said Wednesday, following the second day of the Patriots‘ mandatory minicamp outside Gillette Stadium. ”Being out last year and even a little bit more the year before that, it just feels good to be out here and be able to communicate, go through the worst part and embracing the (camp stuff), as they say, with my teammates.”

Hightower, 28, has failed to play a full schedule in any of his six years in the NFL. In fact, he has missed 24 of a possible 96 regular-season games since becoming a pro in 2012.

”It just (stinks) not being out there,” he said. ”I know in my career in the league I’ve missed a lot of games. It’s definitely not anticipated and it’s not something I look forward to doing or want to do. But it’s part of it.

”Just not being out there during the regular season, let alone the playoffs Tanner Lee Color Rush Jersey , it (stinks) and it hurts.”

During his downtime, he said, ”I just do what I can, whether it’s talking to (media), or going out to dinner and talking about some stuff.”

And he also remained part of the group of linebackers.

”We’ve got a group chat. We stay on that,” he said. ”We’ve got a big old group chat. Whether it’s a funny meme or somebody’s got a question about football, or we’re talking about something happening on TV, or the (NBA) Finals or whatever. We’ve got a tight-knit group and we stay close.”

Asked if he might have done some coaching while not playing, Hightower said, ”Not so much. There were small things I’d see during the games or whatever or I’d see on the IPad at practice, I might say something to them. Not so much as a coach on the sideline.”

So did it spark interest for him in a coaching future?

”Maybe,” he said. ”Definitely not in the NFL, probably not in college, either.

”I’ve been away for too long, man. I don’t know if I can do that. I mean Marquis Haynes Color Rush Jersey , I love football but I don’t know if I love it that much.”

NOTES: Rob Gronkowski caught a touchdown pass from Tom Brady in the corner of the end zone during one drill. Instead of his customary spike, he threw the ball out of the practice fields. . Gronkowski, in a great state of mind after his offseason of uncertainty, walked past the Hightower interview and was heard saying, with a laugh, ”They trading me still?” . Day 2 and Brady remains quiet, with Thursday seen as a possibility for him to meet with the media.




GLENDALE, Ariz. — Every NHL team seemingly wanted to face the Arizona Coyotes when the season began. As the schedule winds down, they are the team no playoff contender is eager to go against.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, who have led the Eastern Conference most of the season, discovered that during a 4-1 loss to Arizona on Monday. The Vegas Golden Knights, who have led the Western Conference much of the season, discovered that during a 3-2 loss to Arizona on Wednesday.

The St. Louis Blues, already a loser to Arizona this season, are hoping they don’t meet the same fate as the Lightning and Golden Knights when they play the suddenly dangerous Coyotes on Saturday night at Gila River Arena Jeremiah Attaochu Color Rush Jersey , in a game critical to St. Louis’ playoff hopes.

The Blues (43-28-6) had won six in a row until losing at Vegas 4-3 in overtime on Friday night, a loss that gained them a valuable point but dropped them a point behind the Anaheim Ducks for the top Western Conference wild card.

Jonathan Marchessault scored twice for Vegas, including the game-winner only 22 seconds into overtime. The Ducks moved past St. Louis, 93 points to 92, by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in overtime.

Arizona (27-40-11) stumbled during a 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday as Jeff Carter scored three goals. It concluded a road trip in which the Coyotes won three of six, but they’re proving to be a very difficult opponent as the playoff races wrap up.

Certainly, much more so than back in October, November and December, when the Coyotes were winless through 11 games (0-10-1) and they won only nine of their first 41.

“Unfortunately, we came up a little bit short (in Los Angeles), but we’ll take the positives and get ready to go for St. Louis,” said left winger Max Domi, who had a goal and an assist against the Kings. “It was a good test for us and a really good learning experience, too, and we’ll take that and move forward. We’ve got four games left and http://www.giantsauthorizedshops.com...rnandez-jersey , hopefully, we can make the most of those.”

The Coyotes are 18-13-6 since midseason, and 15-8-2 in their last 25 games. It’s not exactly a Presidents’ Trophy-level pace, but certainly much better than midseason, when they were threatening to put together one of the NHL’s worst seasons in decades.

“I’m proud of this team,” first-year coach Rick Tocchet said. “We had a good road trip and the guys played hard.”

The Coyotes are getting production from Kevin Connauton, who scored in Los Angeles and has three goals in two games, and rookie center Clayton Keller, who had a 10-game scoring streak stopped against the Kings. He has three goals and seven points in his last five games, and 23 goals and 62 points overall.

The Blues beat the Coyotes 3-2 in a shootout on Nov. 9 but lost to them 5-2 on Jan. 20. They had won eight of nine before Friday, including key wins over the Kings and the Eastern Conference-leading Boston Bruins.

“It was a typical Western Conference game, just heavy sticks, just heavy bodies and two teams just slugging it out,” said right winger Chris Thorburn, who scored his first goal with St. Louis.

Of those six consecutive Blues wins Authentic Saquon Barkley Jersey , four came in overtime, including three in a row from March 17-21 against the New York Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks and Bruins.

Brayden Schenn leads them with 65 points, including 26 goals, while Vladimir Tarasenko has a team-high 31 goals to go with 63 points.

Their late-season surge pushed the Blues from 11th place in the Western Conference on March 16 into a wild-card slot, and they now control their own playoff destiny rather than having to rely on other teams.

“Certainly, the picture’s a little bit clearer right now,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said.

However, playing the Knights and Coyotes on back-to-back nights in the desert is proving to be quite a challenge down the stretch. And the Blues’ schedule isn’t easy, with six games in nine days counting the Vegas game, and three more on the road.

St. Louis is 12-9-2 against the Pacific Division.

“What we do beyond this (is) really going to count,” Yeo said.

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