From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Sidney Crosby's concussion-like symptoms may not be due to a concussion after all. The Pittsburgh Penguins star said Tuesday he's been diagnosed with a soft-tissue injury in his neck that mimics the symptoms of a concussion but is significantly more treatable. "There's a pretty big possibility that I could be causing some of the issues and I hope that's the case," Crosby said. "I hope that it'll improve and that's hopefully the end of it." Crosby and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux met with spinal trauma expert Dr. Alexander Vaccaro in Philadelphia on Monday to review a series of recent tests on the 2009 NHL MVP. Vaccaro determined an MRI and CAT scan indicated no evidence of a fracture in Crosby's neck -- as had been rumored during All-Star weekend -- instead confirming a California doctor's diagnosis that Crosby is dealing with a soft-tissue injury. The news came as a bit of relief to Crosby, who hasn't played since symptoms resurfaced following a loss to Boston on Dec. 5. He missed more than 10 months last year after taking head shots in consecutive games in January, 2011. He returned on Nov. 21 and scored 12 points in eight games before going back on the injured list. The tests could not determine when exactly the neck occurred. "It's hard to pinpoint when this could have happened, whether this was an existing injury or it happened in one of the games in which he came back," general manager Ray Shero said. Frustrated by his slow progress, Crosby traveled to Los Angeles last week to visit noted spine specialist Dr. Robert S. Bray, who examined Crosby and treated him with an injection to alleviate swelling in the neck. Bray will oversee Crosby's progression with therapists while Crosby will continue to work closely with the Pittsburgh medical staff. He declined speculation of a rift between his camp and team physicians. "There's not a lot of answers with this stuff," Crosby said. "They've been more than encouraging when going out and seeking other opinions." The team called the injury "treatable," adding Crosby will return when he's symptom-free. Crosby skated with fellow injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres on Tuesday morning, though coach Dan Bylsma has stressed Crosby is nowhere close to being cleared for contact. Crosby also met with chiropractic neurologist Dr. Ted Carrick in Atlanta earlier this month to deal with lingering motion issues, saying he was "happy" with his response to Carrick's treatment. Just not enough to put any sort of timetable on a return, though he's hopeful the shot he received from Bray will not be required on a regular basis. "It's something I'd rather not have to do to be honest with you," Crosby said. "I'd rather get work done here." Crosby was vague on specific treatment but will focus on keeping his neck loose to help get rid of inflammation. Though he's skating, he claims he's "not where he wants to be." His plan remains to play whenever his body lets him, which could be sometime before the season ends. The Penguins are just as optimistic. "There has never been any indication from any doctor over the last year that he'd have to shut it down for the season, that he'd have to retire," Shero said. "We're going to find a way to get a handle on this and get him back on the ice as safely and quickly as possible."
FOXBORO -- Here are some quick-hitting thoughts on the Patriots' 23-7 victory over the Falcons on Sunday night.
1) If the Patriots attacked this game believing that the best defense is a good offense . . . they were right.
They controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first half and ran for 92 yards on 18 carries (a 5.1 yards per attempt average) with four backs sharing the load. Rex Burkhead gave the team a spark with his speed and vision in his first game back since suffering a rib injury in Week 2. The success the Patriots had running the ball had the added benefit of opening up the play-action pass game and it helped protect Tom Brady. After taking two sacks in the first quarter and a monster hit (penalized for roughing the passer) from Adrian Clayborn in the second, Brady was fairly well-protected.
PATRIOTS 23, FALCONS 3
2) Tom Brady lamented the fact that he hadn't been more accurate in the red zone of late, but he was better in that area to help the Patriots pad their early lead.
The Patriots went 2-for-3 in the red zone through the first half, with Brady hitting on touchdown passes to Brandin Cooks (which looked more like an end-around hand-off) and James White. Brady still had moments of inaccuracy. The pass he lofted before being croaked by Clayborn was a bad one that was intercepted. (The pick was wiped after the penalty was enforced.) He threw behind Chris Hogan on multiple occasions. He also had an odd throw float well out of bounds that was intended for Rob Gronkowski. But for the most part he was on point, completing 21 of his first 29 throws for 241 yards.
3) The Patriots defense showed up in critical moments time and time again in this one.
They stopped the Falcons twice on fourth down, and they allowed Matt Ryan and his offense to convert on just two of their first nine third-down plays. The Falcons coaching staff deserves plenty of criticism for going for it when they did, but with a banged-up secondary, going against the reigning MVP and one of the best receivers in the league, the Patriots responded.
4) Bill Belichick's run defense was particularly impressive in the first half on Sunday night, helping keep the Falcons from getting anything going until it was too late.
They allowed just 30 yards on nine attempts in the first two quarters (a 3.3 yards per attempt average), with Malcom Brown, Trey Flowers, Kyle Van Noy, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise all making impressive stops at, near or behind the line of scrimmage.
5) The Patriots suffered a handful of injuries to key players that will be worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
Malcom Brown left the game in the second half with an ankle injury. Their top defensive tackle this season, Brown's absence may be one reason for why the Falcons were able to pump up their rushing yardage to triple digits by midway through the fourth quarter. Dont'a Hightower also left the game and was announced as questionable to return with a shoulder injury. Hightower has had a history of shoulder issues and so perhaps this is an older injury that was re-aggravated. Chris Hogan also left the game briefly and was evaluated for a concussion, according to NBC's television broadcast. He later returned.
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Tom E. Curran highlights the best and worst moments from Sunday's game between the Patriots and Falcons