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Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones are passing the mental test of the NFL

12.28.12 at 10:09 pm ET
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Patriots rookie Chandler Jones was in a reflective mood about his rookie season Friday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Patriots rookie Chandler Jones was in a reflective mood about his rookie season Friday. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Patriots defensive rookies Dont’a Hightower and Chandler Jones are no strangers to December football.

But when they played for Alabama and Syracuse last season, the season was winding down, with usually just a single game in December.

But now, a year later, after more than 90 practices and 15 games, the Patriots are just beginning to gear up for what they hope will be a long run in the second season. Both said Friday they’re ready for the challenge, physically and mentally.

“I feel good,” Hightower declared. “Up to this point, I’ve been able to take care of my body and I do all the things I need to get this far into the season. Overall, I feel pretty good.

“Obviously, that’s going to be the case, different type of playing styles in the NFL than from college. But, I’ve had older guys tell me to take care of my body, what to do, some of the tricks, getting massages, more ice tub, more treatment on small nicks and things like that. I feel pretty good as far as my health and body goes.”

Hightower said the mental grind of the NFL classroom is where he feels it the most.

“It would be more mentally than physically,” he said. “Of course, everybody is physically gifted to be able to get to this point and blessed. But mentally, if you [have to] come in and get treatment, get massages and watch extra film and try to stay on top of things like that, the mental aspect is definitely the hardest and heaviest part of trying to transform yourself into an NFL player.”

There’s something else Hightower and Jones have learned. Don’t look beyond the game ahead of you, even if the NFL playoffs are looming in two weeks.

“I’m not touching playoffs,” Hightower said proudly, as if Bill Belichick were there listening in. “We’re all about Miami right now. Whenever the times comes, I’ll be ready to talk about that.”

“Just Miami,” added Jones. “We have to get this win. That has to be the mentality for the rest of the season, just win, win that week and take it a week at a time.”

Many have wondered if Jones, who doesn’t have a sack since Oct. 28 in London against the Rams, may have hit a rookie wall. Jones said physically that’s not the case.

“Going into your first pro season, it’s all mental, knowing that you’re going to play probably four-plus more games than you did in college,” Jones said. “It’s automatic 16 [games], not including playoffs. So, it’s mental when it gets late in the season like this. It’s all mind over matter.

What keeps Jones fresh?

“Just knowing that this is your dream,” Jones said. “This is what you signed up for, especially being a rookie and being on a team like New England, there’s nothing like this, there’s nothing else like this. There’s no where else I’d rather be.”

Read More: chandler jones, Dont'a Hightower, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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