Patriots

Hightower quickly learning the Patriot Way

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Hightower quickly learning the Patriot Way

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower learns quickly. The rookie linebacker is sounding like a Patriot after just two days of training camp.

I definitely feel like I can help out somewhere along the line. Im going to do what I can, whatever they ask me to do. Whether its kicking or holding the snap, Im going to do whatever I can to get on the field.

His standing isn't as tenuous as all that; nobody will be asking the first-round pick to kick the football. Still, it's smart for Hightower to play the role of sponge for now.

He's already found a wellspring of advice and information: Jerod Mayo.

Hightower said he's followed Mayo's career from the University of Tennessee to New England. Seeing the former Volunteer win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors with 128 tackles clearly made an impression.

"I feel like most linebackers have the mentality that they want to come in and make a big impact. Me talking to him and asking him how he did things as a rookie, how he prepared and things like that, is going to help me out the best, said Hightower.

The Patriots must love the effort at emulation.

During camp, Mayo has been moved inside and outside over all three linebacker positions. When Hightower comes in, he does the same.

Is it too much, too soon? Yes, head coach Bill Belichick said he's wary of throwing too much at the new kid and overwhelming him. But, like with Mayo, the potential can't be wasted.

Hes a smart kid and he definitely understands football concepts. It comes pretty quickly to him so thats good," said Belichick. "He might now know exactly what every part of his assignment is, he just spatially knows where hes playing, who is next to him, can figure out kind of how hes supposed to fit things."

Good instincts, good football IQ, and versatility -- an invaluable mix. And add to that the wisdom not to take anything for granted.

I'm learning everywhere: on the field, off the field, in the weight room," said Hightower. "How to study for a different level, how to understand difference terminology. Again, Mayo's done well here. Brandon Spikes has, too. A lot of guys.

"I'm just trying to learn as much from those guys while I'm still young."

Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

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Gostkowski named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week

FOXBORO -- Stephen Gostkowski is almost 34 years old, but in Mexico City he provided a reminder that he's not slowing down in his 12th NFL season. 

After going four-for-four on field goals -- including a team-record 62-yarder, a 51-yarder and a 40-yarder -- and making all three of his extra points, Gostkowski was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the sixth time in his career. 

During a press conference on Wednesday, Bill Belichick explained that someone in Gostkowski's situation probably isn't improving at this point in his career. But if he's maintaining a strong level of play, that's OK. 

"I don’t know how much real improvement you’re going to see from a player that’s been in the league 12 or 20 years in a case like Adam [Vinatieri] or somebody like that," Belichick said. "But, if the level they’re performing at is pretty good, if they can maintain that, then that’s certainly enough to help the team.

"Are there things that a player can do better? Yeah, sure, there always are technique things. I think Steve has really improved in some of his alternative kicks on kickoffs, as an example, instead of just kicking every ball as far as he can. He’s done a great job of that. I’d say it’s maintaining the timing and the overall leg speed and technique that makes kickers good at their job."

Ex-Pats Moss, Law and Seymour among Hall of Fame semifinalists

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Ex-Pats Moss, Law and Seymour among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Former Patriots Randy Moss, Ty Law and Richard Seymour are among 27 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018.

In January, selectors will reduce the list to 15 finalists, who will join seniors Robert Brazile and Jerry Kramer and contributor Bobby Beathard on the final ballot. The annual selection meeting will take place Feb.y 3, the day before Super Bowl LII.

Click here for the complete story from NBC's Pro Football Talk.