Hightower, who had surgery on the shoulder in February, was expected to miss six to seven months. He said he doesn’t have a target date, but that his recovery is ‘going great’ and that his fingers are crossed for Sept. 10.
“I’ve seen doc, and everything is going great right now,’ Hightower said. ‘I’m right on track, if not a little ahead of schedule. It’s something that’s going to take time. I can’t say ‘three weeks’ or whatever. It feels great. I’m doing good. Doc loved everything. He said I’m ahead of schedule, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.”
As for Tom Brady, Hightower expressed a preference to have his quarterback on the field with him when the season starts. Brady and the rest of the league are awaiting word on the appeal of Brady’s four-game suspension.
“Obviously, I would rather him not be suspended,” Hightower said. “It’s out of my hands and it’s way out of my pay grade. We’re just sitting and waiting, I guess.”
CINCINNATI — Like every NFL quarterback, Andy Dalton has been following the Tom Brady saga this offseason closely.
Speaking to WEEI.com Sunday after smashing two home runs in the celebrity All-Star softball game, the Bengals quarterback said it’s hard to guess what NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will do when he hands down his decision on Brady’s four-game suspension for his role in Deflategate.
“I don’t know what to expect,” Dalton said. “I don’t know what all went on in those meetings so I’m going to let the league and his side handle all that.”
While other quarterbacks are relaxing and using the summer to recharge their batteries, Dalton said he sympathizes with Brady because it’s an unusual distraction he has to deal with in the offseason.
“For him, it’s another thing he has to think about right now,” Dalton said. “Hopefully at the end of this, he won’t have to worry about this anymore.”
Dalton has led the Bengals to the playoffs in each of his four seasons in the NFL but has lost in the first round each time. This past season, Dalton and the Bengals were 3-0 and the 2-2 Patriots were coming off a 41-14 loss in Kansas City. The 43-17 thumping on Oct. 5 at Gillette Stadium by a fired-up Brady left an impression on Dalton, as the Patriots used the meeting as a springboard to fourth Super Bowl title.
Dalton said Sunday it would be great to get another chance to face Brady. If that were to happen, it would be in the AFC playoffs since the Bengals are not on the Patriots’ schedule this season.
“It’d be great,” Dalton said. “He’s obviously a good player and they’re a good team. But you have to play those types of teams if you want to get where you want to go.”
As for his two softball home runs Sunday?
“It’s a lot of fun,” Dalton said. “It’s fun to be out here with everybody. You get to play a softball game. It’s pretty cool.”
Mike Reiss is in for the vacationing Chris Price and he and Dickerson kick things off with.... what else... Deflategate and Tom Brady's appeal. Mike gives his latest thoughts and predictions on the matter. Will Brady's suspension get reduced and what amount of games will be acceptable for Tom and the Pats. The boys talk about Greg Hardy's suspension getting reduced from 10 to 4 games and how that may effect Brady, if at all. Mike also talks about the Pats D and Dont'a Hightower's role.
As it stands now, Tom Brady is suspended for the first four games of the season. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
1. The first question that came to Patriots’ fans minds when it was announced Friday that Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy’s suspension was knocked down from 10 games to four was how this might affect Tom Brady‘s suspension appeal? The appeals are different, especially in the fact that Hardy’s wasn’t heard by commissioner Roger Goodell, it was heard by former NFL executive Harold Henderson, who also heard Adrian Peterson‘s appeal last December. Brady’s was heard by Goodell, who seemingly would be less likely to reduce a suspension in which he already had signed off on. With that being said, as it stands now, Hardy is being suspended the same number of games as Brady when Hardy’s case is involving domestic violence and Brady’s case is involving deflated footballs. Common sense says Goodell will reduce Brady’s suspension because of what kind of message it sends if the two end up having the same suspension for one being a serious real-life incident and one involving Brady being found “more probable than not” to having knowledge of deflated footballs in the AFC championship game. From this viewpoint, Hardy’s suspension reduction is good news for Brady and the Patriots as it becomes more likely Brady’s will be reduced with the message it would send if the suspension stays at four games.
2. With all the Deflategate talk that has dominated the news with the Patriots this offseason, on the field a position not getting talked about as much as it should is cornerback. The Patriots lost two of their best corners in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, as well as Kyle Arrington this offseason and didn’t do much to replace them. As it stands now, Logan Ryan is the longest-tenured cornerback on the roster, likely starting on one side of the field with Super Bowl-hero Malcolm Butler on the other. The team added Robert McClain, Bradley Fletcher and seventh round pick Darryl Roberts — none of which jump off the page as impact players. While Ryan and Butler have the ability to be solid corners, they won’t be even close to what the team had last year in Revis and Browner. Although it is way too early to be concerned with a specific position, it certainly is a position that should be closely monitored.
3. It was a special July 4th holiday for linebacker Dont’a Hightower as he had a street named after him in his hometown of Lewisburg, Tennesee. A section of First Avenue North officially became Dont’a Hightower Parkway. His mom and sister where there with him for the ceremony. “It’s an awesome accomplishment,” Hightower said to the Patriots’ team website. “I’m blessed. It has always been a dream and a goal for me to achieve this. What better time to get it than after celebrating my first Super Bowl?” Hightower is currently working his way back from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum.
4. With a potential Brady suspension looming, there certainly is the possibility for second-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to start in at least one game this upcoming season. Wide receiver Brandon LaFell was on Sirus XM radio this week and gave Garoppolo a vote of confidence. “Jimmy has grown a lot since he first stepped foot up there in Foxboro last year,” LaFell said. “He got a little experience during the later part of the season against Buffalo; he showed a little glimpse of what he can do. He’s been having a nice OTAs, a nice offseason with us.
“I feel like studying behind Tom has been great for him. If we have to be without Tom for the first couple games, I’m pretty sure Tom will be in Jimmy’s ear helping him prepare each and every way he can to go out here and lead this team. I think we have a great group of guys around him that will kind of take the pressure off Jimmy so he won’t have to feel like he has to go out there and win the game himself with me, Gronk, Edelman, Scott Chandler, we have all great guys around here.”
5. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski is playing the 2015 season under the franchise tag, having a cap hit of $4.59 million, which according to Miguel of Pats Cap is the second-highest for a kicker of all-time. According to NFL rules, the Patriots have until July 15 to come to terms on an extension, as they won’t be able to negotiate a new contract with him until after the season. With as good as the kicker has been, he will certainly draw plenty of interest on the open market next offseason and franchising him again would force a 20 percent increase in salary, so he would be paid $5.33 million in 2016 — off the charts for a kicker. This isn’t suggesting the Patriots wouldn’t be able to sign him to a new contract next offseason, it’s just pointing out, although unlikely to happen, getting a new, multi-year contract done over the next few days could be a good idea long-term.
6. In a recent study by Emory Sports Analytics, they attempted to rank the best fan bases in the NFL in terms of “fan equity” using data such as team performance, ticket prices, median incomes and market populations, fan equity essentially quantifies the willingness of a fan base to financially support its NFL team. The Patriots came in at No. 2 on the list behind the Cowboys. The Giants, Ravens and Jets rounded out the top five. It is the third years in a row the Cowboys and Patriots have finished No. 1 and 2.
7. Devin and Jason McCourty were both part of a discussion on ESPN’s First Take this week. Devin was asked what it would be like to have to play games this coming season without Brady. “We’re like every team to me,” McCourty said. “We’re going in there, we got some question marks, we got some things that need to be figured out. But we know we have one leader. Whatever the NFL decides [concerning Brady’s appeal of his suspension], whether it’s four games like it is now, or whether it’s cut — hopefully it’s cut to no games, which it should be, but I can’t make that decision — if Jimmy [Garoppolo] has to go in there, he has to do what he has to do.
“But obviously if you get a young quarterback in there, the defense has to step up and play better. The Gronk’s, the Julian Edelman‘s, all of those guys have to step up and help him out and play great football if he has to be in there. I think, as a team, we always understand that we have to do what we have to do to win the game. That’s all that matters.”
8. Bill Belichick passed his coaches genes on not only to his son Stephen, currently an assistant with the Patriots, but to his daughter Amanda. She was named the head women’s lacrosse coach at Holy Cross Friday after two seasons as the head coach at Wesleyan University. She has also served as an assistant coach at Ohio State and UMass prior to Wesleyan. At Wesleyan she improved their national computer ranking from No. 49 in 2013 to as high as No. 17 in 2014.
9. Fans looking to see real football won’t have to wait much longer. The first date of training camp is Thursday, July 30 and the team has announced they will have open sessions the three days following, all in the morning. As always, training camp provides a great chance to see players up close and a chance to see how the team practices, something even the media doesn’t get to see during the season.
10. Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady are at it again with their second Dunkin Donuts music video of the summer. What do you think of this edition?