Patriots

NFL superstar continues to play through pain

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NFL superstar continues to play through pain

From Comcast SportsNetALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Calvin Johnson didn't practice for the Lions on Thursday -- and that's a report Detroit fans may need to get used to.Doesn't mean he'll be any less of an asset Sunday."Calvin at any percent ... is a bonus for me or anybody else," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.Johnson toughed out Detroit's 31-14 victory over Jacksonville last weekend, catching seven passes for 129 yards after getting a pain-killing shot in his left knee. The All-Pro receiver is still banged up, but even if his practice time remains limited, he's a big part of the Lions' offense.Up next is a trip to Minnesota. The Vikings beat Detroit on Sept. 30, knocking Johnson around in the process. The 6-foot-5 Johnson was hit in the head and neck area by Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway. He was also hit in the end zone in that game, failing to hold on to a potential touchdown.Although he says he's feeling better now, there were some lasting effects from those collisions."Actually had some nerve damage," Johnson said. "Taking those hits, man, they're real violent. They definitely have a lot of lingering impact. ... Stuff shooting down your arms and stuff like that."Now it's the knee that's a concern."It's coming along. Definitely feels better than it was at this point last week," Johnson said. "I've just been doing a lot of stuff in weight room, just to strengthen the muscle around it."The rest of the NFL could barely contain Johnson last season, when he caught 96 passes for 1,681 yards and 16 touchdowns. This season, he's on pace to post similar numbers -- except that he's only caught one TD pass.Last weekend it wasn't clear how effective he could be because of the knee, but he ended up playing one of his best games of the season."I always expect the ball," he said. "The production I had, it was actually very good considering what I was dealing with."Detroit needs Johnson to be a force, especially with receiver Nate Burleson out with a broken leg. The Lions (4-4) are in last place in the NFC North, but they're very much in the hunt for a wild card. The remaining schedule is tough, with two games against Green Bay and one each against Houston, Atlanta and Chicago.This weekend's game starts a stretch of three in 12 days for the Lions, including their annual contest on Thanksgiving."It's a tough stretch for everybody, whether you're hurt or not," Johnson said. "It's going to be a grind."One encouraging sign last weekend for Detroit was the emergence of the running game.Mikel Leshoure rushed for 70 yards and three touchdowns, and Joique Bell ran for 73 yards and a TD. The Lions set a season high with 149 yards on the ground -- exactly what the offense needed with Johnson on the mend and the passing game not looking quite as explosive as expected."We'd like to build on it," Linehan said. "It's going to be a tough challenge for us, but we feel confident in our ability as we're moving forward in our run game and having some things that we're doing. Backs are getting confidence, they're running good."Meanwhile, Johnson is managing his recovery carefully.Sitting out practice is not an ideal situation, but if it's necessary, he can adjust."I do know what I need to do by Sunday," Johnson said. "Experience helps with that."

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

Julio Jones presents Johnson Bademosi opportunity to prove he's not niche player

None of us thought Johnson Bademosi would be starting this past Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Jets because -- well -- that’s not what we perceive the 27-year-old to be. He’s a special teamer. It’s how he’s made his mark in the NFL dating back to 2012 with Cleveland. So why would that change in mid-October for a team he’s only been with for six weeks? Because Bademosi is -- and has always been -- intent on proving he’s more than a niche player.

“I see myself as a football player,” he said, “and whatever position they put me in, I’m going to try to be the best because that’s how I operate and who I am as a person. Whether that’s as a cornerback, on special teams, if they ask me to play wildcat quarterback. Whatever…”

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Bill Belichick and his staff asked for Bademosi to go on the field and not come off. He played 73 defensive snaps in addition to his usual core four special teams duties. 

“I felt like I played a whole game,” Bademosi joked, before saying, “I love playing football so I’m going to go out there and empty myself.”

He did just that, getting targeted only two times in the 24-17 win over the Jets. It was hoped that Bademosi would return to his normal specialist role, but with Stephon Gilmore still out with a concussion, it now seems more and more likely that the sixth year pro will have to be an ironman again Sunday night in primetime against the Falcons. Historically, the Pats have defended bigger receivers. That means Bademosi may be responsible for one of the most dangerous players in the league, Julio Jones.

“He’s an amazing player," he said. “We all know what he’s capable of. As a defense, we have to be prepared for him.”

The Pats were on Super Bowl Sunday and Jones still made a couple of ridiculous plays with either Logan Ryan or Eric Rowe in coverage with safety help over the top.

“He’s fast. He’s physical. He can jump. He can run. He’s smart. He’s everything you want in a wide receiver,” said Bademosi without blinking an eye. That’s the kind of confidence you want from a player at that position and facing this type of challenge. 

“You gotta believe in yourself,” he said “ I’m confident in my abilities. I work hard and trust my preparation.”

Being an elite athlete certainly helps. Bademosi was a scholarship football player at Stanford -- “some guy named Jim Harbaugh called” -- before ending up in the NFL. But it’s Bademosi’s willingness to go all in in the film room that impressed safety Devin McCourty. 

“…I think, honestly, the most work he did was probably with just himself jumping into the film, watching more stuff to exactly see,” said McCourty Thursday. “You know, when you’re a backup more, you’re kind of trying to see everything because you don’t know what role you might be thrust upon once you’re in the game. But, I think once he knew he was starting, it was kind of like, ‘Alright, let me focus in on this.’ I thought he did an awesome job of just being ready and competing.”

Bademosi will have to compete his ass off Sunday night, even against what has been to this point a physically compromised Jones. Based on what he did several days ago, there’s no reason to believe the Pats cornerback won’t bring everything he has, trying to prove again that he’s more than just a special teams whiz.

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Kenny Agostino looking forward to 'the right opportunity' with the Bruins

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Kenny Agostino looking forward to 'the right opportunity' with the Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s been a few different stints with a few different NHL teams for 25-year-old Kenny Agostino, so he knows the drill at this point in his pro hockey career. The Bruins signed Agostino as a free agent on July 1 after he led the AHL in scoring last season, and they gave him a one-way contract as a show of proof that he’d get his chances at the NHL level.

It didn’t happen immediately out of camp as Agostino was felled by a concussion for part of the preseason, but he’ll get his chance now with injuries and ineffectiveness creating an opening for him on the Black and Gold. Agostino should get a look as the left winger on the third line after lighting it up in Providence with two goals and seven points in his first three games with the P-Bruins, and he’s looking forward to seizing another chance at the NHL level after stints with the Flames and Blues. 

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“I’ve been doing this a few years and I like to think I’ve developed my game outside of my offensive ability,” said the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Agostino, who had 24 goals and 83 points for the Chicago Wolves last season. “That’s kind of been my goal to become more of a complete player. I’m excited and looking forward to another opportunity and just want to make the most of it. I’m not looking past tonight.

“I was fortunate as a college guy to get my first pro experience at the NHL level in Calgary, but then you understand how difficult it is to establish yourself. You need a lot of different things. You need the right opportunity and you need to do well with it, so it makes you appreciate how great of an opportunity it is anytime you get to play in this league.”

Certainly, the Bruins are anxious to get a look at Agostino, and probably Peter Cehlarik at some point soon, and the lack of production from some of the NHL incumbents have fast-forwarded that process a little bit. Agostino will replace Ryan Spooner along the half-wall on the first power play unit, and perhaps he can add the kind of scoring touch in the bottom-6 that Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano haven’t been able to thus far.

“We know Kenny is going to start in Spooner’s power play spot, he’s done it before and he’s had some success at the lower levels when given that opportunity. Obviously he’ll play left behind [Brad] Marchand and [Jake] DeBrusk, probably on the third line spot,” said Cassidy. “He’s played with [Riley] Nash yesterday [at practice] so there’s a good chance he’ll play with him today.”

The Bruins certainly need a spark after limping out to a 2-3-0 start to the season in the first five games, so perhaps a hungry Agostino can do that while being given a legit chance to show what he can do by the Black and Gold.