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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Patriots' Hightower takes the high road

By MIKE SHALIN
September 20. 2018 11:10PM




DONT’A HIGHTOWER says the newest Patriot will have people to talk with as he adjusts to his move to the Last Chance Saloon.

“Whatever he needs, whatever questions he has, obviously we’re all here to help for that,” Hightower said of the arrival of the troubled Josh Gordon, who may or may not make his Patriots debut Sunday night in Detroit.

“I’m not a counselor or nothing. We’re teammates, we’re here to help. I’ll leave it at that.”

This is another no-risk move by Bill Belichick. You know what the wide receiver picture was last week — and will be for the next two weeks until Julian Edelman gets back. If it works, the genius strikes again. If it doesn’t, no big deal, right? The team moved Gordon into the locker next to Tom Brady and you know there will be plenty of back and forth between the two. They really CAN help each other. Gordon needs help saving his career. Brady needs someone to pass to.

Gordon has played in just 11 NFL games since 2013. The talent has always been there. He had seven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown against the Pats in a one-point Patriots win in 2013.

“It was a monster game,” Hightower said. “He’s still a monster now. He’s a tremendous athlete. Great receiver.”

He caught 87 passes for 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns that season. He has caught 43 passes for 655 yards and two scores — one this year — since.

Belichick has a Friday media gathering and will — we assume — comment on Gordon for the first time. The trade had been announced by both teams, Gordon, limited by a hamstring, was practicing, and Belichick would acknowledge there was a deal.

Wednesday, Rob Gronkowski did his Dancing With The Stars audition when asked — several times in several ways — about Gordon.

“I know that he’s a good player, but I can’t really get into details,” Gronk said. “I’ve never really practiced with him like that before seeing him in person play. But, what I’ve seen before, he’s a great player and just definitely glad to have him here.”

Peter King, appearing on WEEI Thursday, didn’t hold back when he said, “The Patriots are a proud franchise, and I realize what I am saying is a little bit of idealistic crapola, but the Patriots should not be in business with Josh Gordon. He is not worthy of this franchise.”

Interesting take.

Speaking of Gronk, where WAS he last Sunday? “Execute better,” he said when asked what he has to do Sunday. “Find the open holes, get open on the zone defenses better and when it’s man-to-man, get some separation.”

He’ll be doing it against old friend Matt Patricia, whose Lions are 0-2 and have been outscored 78-44.

More drama

What would a week be without more Patriots drama? On top of the Gordon soap opera, there’s a new book out — Ian O’Connor’s “Belichick — The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time.

In the book, a source tells O’Connor, after last season, “If you’re married 18 years to a grouchy person who gets under your skin and never compliments you, after a while you want to divorce him. Tom knows Bill is the best coach in the league, but he’s had enough of him. If Tom could, I think he would divorce him.”

O’Connor said Brady wasn’t sure if he’d be back for this season until March.

“But in the end, even if he wanted to, Brady could not walk away from the game, and he could not ask for a trade,” O’Connor wrote. “The moment Belichick moved (Jimmy) Garoppolo to San Francisco, and banked on Brady’s oft-stated desire to play at least into his mid-forties, was the moment Brady was virtually locked into suiting up next season and beyond. Had he retired or requested a trade, he would have risked turning an adoring New England public into an angry mob.”

More drama: According to the book, Urban Meyer, who had Aaron Hernandez at the University of Florida, reportedly told scouts, “look, this guy’s a hell of a football player, but he (bleeping) lies to beat the system and teaches all our other guys to beat the system. With the marijuana stuff, we’ve never caught this guy, but we know he’s doing it. … Don’t (bleeping) touch that guy.”

Worried yet?

As this was being written, the Red Sox were hours away from taking their third shot at clinching the AL East at Yankee Stadium.

And there were things to worry about in light of what happened in the first two games.

The bullpen was again an arson squad. Alex Cora wanted to see if Ryan Brasier could handle the big stage and decided to let Neil Walker hit from his good side. Hanger and the game is gone. Joe Kelly threw gasoline on the fire Wednesday.

In short, the playoffs start in two weeks and there’s no indication of the plan going forward. These guys could surprise us in the postseason but the resume isn’t promising.

And then there’s David Price, and Sox fans whining about the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium. Here’s the thing: The porch is out there, the Yankees have righty swingers with power to that direction. Why did Price continue to NOT pitch inside — pitch to the surroundings? Simple. Price is freaked out by Yankee Stadium. That’s not a dangerous thing if the Yankees win the wild card game. Price can pitch Game 2 at Fenway, where he was brilliant his last time out against the Yankees.

Cora told WEEI the Red Sox will likely be going with three catchers, meaning 11 pitchers, for the ALDS. None of the three catchers is a true offensive threat, but Blake Swihart gives the manager flexibility.

Incredible story

I have to admit Eric Byrnes makes me nervous when I see him on the MLB Network — usually to the point of turning him off. But what he just did for charity puts the former outfielder in a totally different light in these eyes.

He did a triathlon — ACROSS THE COUNTRY!!! TriAcrossAmerica, raising money for #letthemplay — to “bring awareness to the dwindling physical education programs in public schools across the country”.

On July 22, Byrnes started with a seven-mile swim from McCovey Cove in San Francisco to Oakland. Then, he biked 2,344 miles to Chicago and ran the final 846 miles to Yankee Stadium. There were stops at ballparks along the way — along with stories of running in the dark on highways.

Here and there

Kevin Paul Dupont of the Globe tweeted, “Bruins with $5m in cap space and prospects galore up front. Prime for whopping trade.”

…Amid talk Kevin Durant wants to join LeBron James with the Lakers next season, Jimmy Butler wants to be traded to the Knicks, Nets or Clippers — and reports have him wanting to join Kawhi Leonard with the Clips.

Yasiel Puig showed the superstar talent we always thought he had this week — six homers in 18 at-bats, including a three-run pinch hit blast that helped the Dodgers complete their sweep of the Rockies.

…James says it doesn’t bother him when the current inhabitant of the White House calls him dumb. “No, because I’m not (dumb),” James said. “That’s like somebody saying I can’t play ball. That doesn’t bother me at all.” He adds, “He has the most powerful job in the world. Like, you really got this much time that you can comment on me?”

Mark Cuban, whose Mavericks were the center of a sexual harassment mess last season, is donating $10 million to organizations fighting domestic violence and supporting the professional development of women in the sports industry.

Jim Calhoun has officially returned to coaching — to lead the new Division III University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, Conn. — after spending a year building the program.

…Finally, New York mayor Bill de Blasio, a lifelong Red Sox fan, met with Sox brass, including Cora, this week. “It’s true,” mayoral spokesman Eric Phillips told the New York Post. “The focus was the Red Sox Foundation and how New York fans of the Sox could help their important causes.”

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


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