FOXBORO — Dont’a Hightower’s contract is up at the end of the 2016 season, but he’s not talking about it.

Dont'a Hightower

Dont’a Hightower

FOXBORO — Dont’a Hightower’s contract is up at the end of the 2016 season, but he’s not talking about it.

The linebacker didn’t have much to say on Thursday when asked about the potential for a new deal, instead setting a new land speed record for most use of the phrase “get better” in a five-minute stretch. (Per Erik Frenz of Boston.com, Hightower used the word “better” as a response to 18 of the 22 questions that were asked of him on Thursday.)

“I ain’t got nothing to do with any of that,” Hightower said when he was initially asked about the potential for a new deal. “I’m just out here trying to get better with my teammates.”

Reminded he does have something to do with it — if he wants to stay, he can actually make that happen — he shrugged.

“That might be it, but there’s a time and place for everything,” he said. “And right now I’m just out here trying to get better.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

Rex Ryan hasn’t been afraid to poke at Bill Belichick and the Patriots over the years, and now his brother Rob is joining in.

Coaching with his brother Rex, Rob Ryan feels the Bills can beat Bill Belichick and the Patriots. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Coaching with his brother Rex, Rob Ryan feels the Bills can beat Bill Belichick and the Patriots. (Robert Deutsch/USA Today Sports)

Rex Ryan hasn’t been afraid to poke at Bill Belichick and the Patriots over the years, and now his brother Rob is joining in.

Rob joined the Bills this past offseason as a defensive assistant and within a long interview with MMQB along with Rex, Rob took aim at Belichick and the Patriots.

At the end of the interview the Ryan brothers were discussing their dad and how he’s struggling health-wise, but they hope he can make it through a few more seasons.

“He’s not going to be able to watch us coach for much longer, I don’t think,” Rob said. “But hopefully he can see this one, because we have got big plans. Bring Belichick on. We got him.”

Going into this season, the Patriots have won 23 out of the last 25 meetings between the two teams and the last loss was the final game of the 2014 season and had no impact on playoff seeding so the Patriots rested the majority of their players.

It wasn’t all shots at the Patriots and Belichick as Rob noted he worked under Belichick for four years and learned a lot, but still feel the Bills can take New England down.

“All the respect in the world for Bill Belichick,” Rob said. “That was fantastic training working for him for four years, and I learned a ton. Look, he is the No. 1 nemesis of every coach in this league. So it’s not just Rex. Now, I think if you ask their offensive staff, the worst they ever play is against Rex. People say, ‘well, he hasn’t beat them [nine out of the last 10] tries.’ Yeah, well, he has beat the hell out of that offense. I am sure the respect is mutual.

“But I know one thing, we are going to beat them. We are together, we’re going to beat the best. It’s two against one. Him one on one against any coach in the league, that guy is pretty damn good. And he’s also got his best buddy Tom Brady with him. He trained him, and he single-handedly made him great as well.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Chris Long looks to help fill the void of Chandler Jones at defensive end. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Chris Long looks to help fill the void of Chandler Jones at defensive end. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Chris Long sounds like a guy who’s really ready to re-start his career in New England.

The 31-year-old defensive end signed a one-year, $2 million deal in New England in March after spending his first eight NFL seasons with the Rams.

Long finished his first week of OTAs with his new team on Thursday in the heat on the grass fields outside Gillette Stadium. And while this time of the offseason is usually centered around learning, the competitor in Long knows he definitely has something to prove to his new employer and teammates.

“I love the way we go about business,” Long said. “I love getting out here and competing. It was a competitive couple of days. I have lot to worry about to get to the point where I can do my job the way I want to do it here. There’s a lot of learning for me. I’m excited to learn and pick it up. You’ve just got to be a sponge.”

Long is trying to regain the form he showed earlier in his career with the Rams that made him one of the most effective defensive ends in football. In 2011, the Virginia product had a career-best 13 sacks. The next season he had 11.5. He’s played just 18 games in the last two seasons, racking up four sacks and 24 tackles.

“Great thing about that is that’s yesterday. It’s in the past,” Long added. “I’m out here with a great attitude every day, trying to get better and every day you try to re-prove yourself. As a player, you should come out every day trying to re-prove yourself and that’s all I try to do every day. New situation, old situation, whatever, it’s just one day at a time for me.

“I came in with no expectations either way. I’m just here to do my job and do what I’m asked to do. Whatever the coaches want me to do, wherever I line up, I didn’t have any expectations. I just want to come in here and compete and help this team. It was awesome. It was a great day to get to work. We had a great week. I’m excited to look at the film and see how we can get better after three days. It was really fun to be out here, playing football, and competing.”

Long was part of an offseason defensive re-boot for the Patriots, as he figures to slot in and help take the reps of Chandler Jones, who was traded to Arizona. He was out on the field this week, along with fellow veteran newcomers Terrance Knighton, Shea McClellin and E.J. Biggers.

“Any day I can play football is invigorating for me,” Long said. “Just getting out here with this awesome group of guys is invigorating every day for me. It’s not really about what happened in the past. It’s about my first week and how I can adapt and help the team and do things the way they do things around here is exciting.

“Any time you’ve been off for months as a football player, regardless of the situation, it’s good to get out there and knock the rust off. For me, it’s very important for me. I’m just excited to get the opportunity to do this. It was a really fun day out here. It’s just a great opportunity every day to hone my craft and try to adapt to what they’re doing and help the team in any way I can.”

Long was asked if he’s noticed the razor-sharp focus of the Patriots and the way they’ve gone about putting off-the-field distractions like Tom Brady and Deflategate to the side.

“I haven’t been here long enough to make any big determinations,” Long said. “So, I’m just every day trying to eliminate distractions for myself. Any NFL player has distractions to deal with. I just worry about doing my job and eliminating those distractions for myself.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

ESPN’s football coverage will see some significant changes this coming season — an

ESPN's Chris Berman reportedly will retire at the end of the 2016 season. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

ESPN’s Chris Berman reportedly will retire at the end of the 2016 season. (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

ESPN’s football coverage will see some significant changes this coming season — and it won’t be the only year with a change.

According to The Big Lead, Chris Berman will retire from ESPN after the 2016 season.

Berman has been with ESPN since 1979 and his contract is up after this season. Instead of looking to join another network, he will retire at age 61.

The report adds the network has already begun to plan Berman’s send-off as he’s one of the longest tenured employees the company has.

As for potential Berman replacements, the two names mentioned in the story were Trey Wingo and Suzy Kolber.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The NFL has come down against the Ravens.

Earlier this month, the Ravens held rookie minicamp practices in pads, which is against NFL rules. On Thursday, the NFL imposed the discipline against the organization and coach Jim Harbaugh.

The NFL has come down against the Ravens.

Earlier this month, the Ravens held rookie minicamp practices in pads, which is against NFL rules. On Thursday, the NFL imposed the discipline against the organization and coach Jim Harbaugh.

As a team, they have to forfeit one week of their organized team activities, which had been scheduled June 1-3. In addition, the team was fined $343,057 and Harbaugh was fined $137,223, according to ESPN’s Jim Trotter.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable
Roger Goodell reaffirmed the league's commitment to concussion research. (Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

Roger Goodell reaffirmed the league’s commitment to concussion research. (Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports)

On Thursday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter obtained a letter Roger Goodell sent to the owners and presidents of the NFL’s 32 teams where he emphasized the league’s commitment to the treatment of head injuries and independent medical research.

Following is the complete letter:

As discussed during our recent meeting, the NFL has a unique responsibility and opportunity to drive change and advance progress in the prevention and treatment of head injuries. That is our unwavering commitment to our players, former players, athletes at all levels, and society more broadly.

At the core of that commitment is your continued and robust support of independent medical research, including the $30 million contribution to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for scientific research on concussion and head injury. I want to reaffirm in the strongest possible terms my comments to you during the league meeting and my public statements this week reaffirming the NFL’s commitment to the NIH of the $30 million in grant funding we pledged to accelerate scientific understanding of concussion and head injury. There was no consideration given to anything other than honoring that commitment in its entirety.

The research you have funded thus far is significant. It includes $12 million that has been allocated through the NIH for two $6 million agreements dedicated to studies that define the long-term changes that occur in the brain after a head injury or multiple concussions. Boston University School of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs received $6 million for a study on CTE and post-traumatic neurodegeneration, while Mount Sinai Hospital received $6 million for a study on the neuropathology of CTE and Delayed Effects of TBI. Additionally, the NFL grant has funded six pilot projects totaling more than $2 million to provide support for the early stages of sports-related concussion projects .

Apart from our firm commitment of $30 million to the NIH for scientific research, we will move forward on the work discussed with you earlier this week, including substantial additional funding for projects relating to safety equipment, treatment of athletes who have experienced concussions, and a longitudinal study relating to the incidence and prevalence of long-term health consequences. We are fortunate to be guided on these projects by the finest medical and scientific advisors and appreciate their dedication to our ongoing efforts.

We look forward to a productive and ongoing partnership with the NIH and others to advance our shared priorities, and to committing additional funding to medical research and engineering advances to enhance the safety of athletes at all levels.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable