Patriots

Hightower starts in return from knee injury, plays more than half Patriots snaps

Hightower starts in return from knee injury, plays more than half Patriots snaps

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower hadn't played since the season-opener, but it looked like his conditioning level was just fine midway through the fourth quarter.

Coming in off the left edge, he beat his blocker and chased down Cam Newton to notch his first sack of the season. The play forced a Panthers punt and gave the Patriots possession with 7:27 left in the game. Down 30-23 at the time, Hightower's team had a chance to tie. Ten plays later, they did.  

PANTHERS 33, PATRIOTS 30

Though the Patriots couldn't hold off the Panthers late in the fourth quarter, Hightower's sack could be viewed as an encouraging sign for a defense that needs as many of those as it can get at the moment.

Hightower started and played 37 of 63 defensive snaps on Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus, including one as an inside linebacker. For the most part, though, Hightower remained on the edge. That's the role he played exclusively in Week 1 against the Chiefs before suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for wins over New Orleans and Houston. Per PFF, he rushed the passer 16 times -- recording two hurries in addition to his sack -- and dropped into coverage six times.

Hightower missed much of training camp while on the physically unable to perform list, and then his injury against the Chiefs may have stunted any progress he was making with his conditioning. He may still need some time before he's feeling like he's at full strength, but playing more than half the snaps and coming up with a key play late isn't a bad place to build from.

Here's a look at some of the other banged-up Patriots and how they performed . . . 

Marcus Cannon, OT: Returning to his spot as the starting right tackle after dealing with an ankle injury and a concussion that kept him out against the Texans, Cannon played all 70 offensive snaps for the Patriots. He allowed a sack to Julius Peppers and gave up four more pressures in the game, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Eric Rowe, CB: Rowe sat out Week 3 with a groin injury. He said on Sunday that the injury felt 100 percent before the Panthers game, but on the first play of the third quarter he tweaked his groin making a tackle. He did not return and finished the game having played 19 snaps. Had Rowe remained healthy, it would have been interesting to see how the Patriots utilized Stephon Gilmore, as Gilmore sat out the first play of the third quarter with Rowe and Malcolm Butler on the field. Rowe's injury seemed to force Gilmore back into action. Gilmore has missed just 12 snaps on the season. He sat for 11 against the Texans as he dealt with dehydration.

Elandon Roberts, LB: The second-year linebacker started the game as an off-the-ball linebacker alongside Kyle Van Noy, making five tackles before leaving the game with an injured ankle. He did not return and finished having played 33 snaps. Roberts was spotted in the locker room after the game with a noticeable limp.  

Jacob Hollister, TE: The undrafted rookie played just three snaps offensively but was involved on special teams as well. He was a late addition to the injury report with a hamstring issue on Saturday. Before the game, he tested the injury with team medical personnel and coach Bill Belichick watching closely. He was held without a catch on one target. This was not a big tight end game for the Patriots as their No. 2, Dwayne Allen, played a season-low nine snaps.

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Patriots rookie Sony Michel buys his parents new cars

Patriots rookie Sony Michel buys his parents new cars

Patriots first-round draft pick Sony Michel surprised both of his parents with new cars.

Michel told the NBC Sports Boston Camera Guys all about it, saying "It's my obligation to take care of my parents. That's always been my goal, to take care of everything they need from here on out."

Michel posted photos on Friday of his parents posing next to their new rides:

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Ex-Patriots WR accused of vandalizing former college teammate's car

Ex-Patriots WR accused of vandalizing former college teammate's car

Jabar Gaffney, a former Patriots (2006-08) wide receiver, is suspected of vandalizing a car belonging to his former high school and college teammate Lito Shepard, an ex-Philadelphia Eagles cornerback.

Gaffney and Sheppard were teammates at the University of Florida and in high school, and according to details from the police report published by First Coast News, Sheppard said he and Gaffney, and Gaffney's longtime girlfriend, have had an ongoing feud that began in 2012.

Here's the account of the incident outside a Jacksonville Beach restaurant from the police report: "Gaffney retrieved some type of tool and a container from the suspect's vehicle, walked over to the passenger's side of the victim's vehicle near the gas tank, and pried it open. Gaffney then poured an unknown substance from the container into the gas tank...The unknown female walked around the vehicle and stabbed all of the tires with a sharp object."

The report said the suspects fled the scene in an unknown direction. Sheppard said his BMW sustained about $14,000 in damages.

No arrests have been made as of yet. Gaffney, 37, caught eight touchdown passes in 43 games (20 starts) in three seasons in New England. 

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