From primaries in many states next week, to the big presidential one in November, it's election season all over the country... And that includes the pro football team here in Foxborough.
On Tuesday, Patriots players elected co-captains for the 2016 season and the results are in. Incumbents Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater are joined by first-timers Rob Gronkowski and Dont'a Hightower. This is the lowest number of captains the Patriots have elected in recent years. They generally average six per season.
Hightower played coy when asked if he had any inkling he'd be a candidate for captainship this year.
"Possibly," he grinned, "but I wasn't a shoe-in."
The actual process of voting for captains is "just like voting for president," Hightower explained. "You've got a ballot and you fill out who you want."
If that's the case, how much campaigning did he do?
"Nah," he laughed, "I didn't have time for that."
In the past, the linebacker said he's voted for teammates "who try to do the right thing, guys who follow kind of just fall in line and know the right thing to do." Now that he's in that leadership role, Hightower doesn't expect to change his approach much. Preferring to lead by example rather than get up in front of a crowd and give speeches, the veteran added that he's planning to follow the example of former linebacker Jerod Mayo, a perennial co-captain until his retirement this past offseason.
"I've got some big shoes to fill… I'm definitely looking forward to it… It feels great," a beaming Hightower admitted to reporters Wednesday. "Definitely, I think the bigger thing about it is, I wasn't selected by coaches, it was by my teammates. Being elected a captain by your peers is one of the biggest honors. It means a lot to me. I know we've got a lot of great guys on this team, especially on defense, so, to be elected up there with Devin, Slater, and Gronk means a lot to me."
A Long Day Ahead
Different players react differently to game days. Some like to get hyped up, others retreat into their own inner world through music and headphones. Even after years in the league, some players even get butterflies when they step onto the field for the regular season.
Veteran Chris Long is poised to make his Patriots regular season debut Sunday night in Arizona. So, after eight previous seasons in the NFL, all with the Rams, will Long be anxious this weekend?
"No, I'll be good. It'll be late at night, so, I'll have to drink a bunch of coffee," he laughed. "I'm pretty calm. I'm excited, but not nervous. Especially coming off preseason. You work so hard for this opportunity to play regular season football. It's hard to match that atmosphere."
Incidentally, kickoff in the Phoenix area will be at 5:30 p.m., given the three-hour time zone difference.
Here We Rowe Again
For the second time this summer, the Patriots have tried to deal away an offensive lineman, only to have that player's rights revert back to New England. This week, it was Josh Kline. The interior player was originally part of a trade that brought cornerback Eric Rowe from Philadelphia to Foxborough. In exchange, the Patriots also gave the Eagles a conditional 2018 draft pick.
Philly reportedly was not really interested in keeping Kline, however. They were attempting to shop him around the league, but were apparently having trouble, so, they asked to have him taken out of the deal before it was officially submitted to the league. Kline became New England's property again (briefly) and the team released him Wednesday, just like they did with center Bryan Stork after his failed trade to Washington.
Meanwhile, according to media reports in Philadelphia, the conditions of the draft choice New England is giving the Eagles are as follows: at present, it is a 2018 fourth-round pick, but if Rowe plays at least 50 percent of the team's defensive snaps this season or next, that pick becomes a third-rounder.
Rowe, wearing jersey number 25, took part in his first practice with the Patriots on Wednesday. All 63 Patriots, including the 10 men on the practice squad, suited up for the second day in a row.
New England altered its practice squad slightly Wednesday, adding linebacker Quentin Gause. The undrafted rookie out of Rutgers coincidentally also comes over from the Eagles. To make room for him, the Patriots had to part with practice squad linebacker Rufus Johnson.
It doesn't hit newsstands till next week, but Patriots fans will recognize the October cover boy for Men's Health magazine. Wide receiver Danny Amendola gets the honor, and there's an accompanying story on the inside that details how this Patriot keeps himself in enviable shape.