Patriots

Dont'a Hightower off PUP, returns to Patriots practice

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Dont'a Hightower off PUP, returns to Patriots practice

FOXBORO -- On Tuesday at Gillette Stadium, Dont’a Hightower was in uniform and practicing with his teammates for the first time since training camp began last month. Hightower's participation means he has been removed from the physically unable to perform list. 

In full pads, wearing Alabama crimson underneath his Patriots jersey, Hightower took part in drills with on-the-line players early in the practice. Members of the media were able to watch only a few minutes of the workout following warm-ups. 

The players Hightower worked in with comes as little surprise as he has been used at the end of the line in certain packages in the past. With David Harris now in the mix at linebacker, and with Rob Ninkovich retired, it could free up Hightower to play more on the end of the line. 

Nate Solder, Deatrich Wise and LaAdrian Waddle were all back on the practice field for the Patriots Tuesday as well. Solder has yet to play this preseason, while Wise suffered a head injury in the team’s preseason-opener against the Jaguars. Waddle sustained a head injury last week.

Missing from the session were Rex Burkhead as well as Malcolm Mitchell, Matthew Slater, Shea McClellin, Tony Garcia, Matt Lengel, Derek Rivers and Andrew Jelks (non-football injury list).  

Burkhead seemed to finish Saturday's game in Houston without incident. He spoke to reporters on Monday, and there were no indications he was dealing with any physical limitations. Mitchell seemed to tweak something in his knee on his first play against the Texans, but he stayed in the game and caught two passes for 13 yards. 

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

How well does Tom Brady play against former Patriots coaches?

The Patriots will face the Detroit Lions Sunday night in the Pats latest matchup against a former Bill Belichick assistant. The Lions hired Matt Patricia after the defensive guru spent 14 seasons under Belichick in New England. But so far, Patricia and the Lions are off to a rough start (0-2), and it could get worse -- it's been well-established that former Belichick pupils have struggled against the Patriots. 

TOM E. CURRAN'S HARD TRUTHS

But what about Tom Brady against Patriots assistants-turned-head coaches? Patricia will be the fifth former coach Brady will face, joining Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Bill O'Brien, and Josh McDaniels. Patricia will join Mangini and Crennel as former defensive coordinators to scheme against Brady, while O'Brien and McDaniels went from calling plays for Brady to trying to stop him. Who has the advantage, Brady or his coaches?

VS. ERIC MANGINI

Belichick first discovered Mangini as a ball boy in Cleveland. Mangini eventually became New England's defensive coordinator for a season before accepting the head coaching job with the New York Jets. Because he was in the AFC East, Brady played Mangini the most of any former coach. Brady and the Pats went 4-2 in the regular season and 1-0 in the postseason against Mangini's Jets. Mangini's defenses picked Brady four times in those six games, but Brady still threw nine touchdowns. He completed 116 of his 190 pass attempts (61 percent) for 1,346 yards.

As head coach of the Browns in 2010, Mangini's team beat Brady and the Pats 34-14 for one of their five victories that season. Brady went 19-for-36 for 224 yards and two TDs in that game.

VS. ROMEO CRENNEL

The defensive coordinator for the Patriots' first three Super Bowl champion squads had no answers for Brady and the New England offense in a matchup against the Browns in 2007. The 2007 NFL MVP completed 22 of 38 passing attempts (58 percent) for 265 yards, three TDs, and zero interceptions. 

VS. BILL O'BRIEN

Bill O'Brien called plays for the Patriots from 2009 to 2011, but is probably most known in New England for his infamous yelling match with Brady on the sidelines during a game in 2011. O'Brien is now in his fifth season as the coach of the Houston Texans and his defenses -- which, for the record, have been very good -- have had absolutely no success against Brady. The Patriots are 3-0 in regular-season games and 1-0 in the postseason when Brady starts against O'Brien. Brady threw for 1,168 yards in those four games, completing 91 of 142 passes (64 percent) and throwing 12 TDs and just three interceptions. 

VS. JOSH MCDANIELS

McDaniels, who is in his second stint as the Patriots offensive coordinator, has a great relationship with Brady, as shown in Brady's Facebook docu-series Tom vs. Time. But in 2009, the two faced off against each other when in McDaniels' first season as Broncos head coach. McDaniels got the win in overtime, but Brady played solid. He was 19 of 33 (58 percent) for 215 yards, with two TDs and no picks. 

OVERALL

It's been business as usual for Brady against his former coaches, with a record of 8-3 in the regular season and 2-0 in the playoffs. In those 13 games, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,218 yards, 28 TDs and seven interceptions. Brady will look to continue his success against Patricia this weekend, as the Patriots look to get back on track with a win.

-- Will Lefkovich

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