Rookies adjusting to longer season

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
3:48
PM ET
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- While the college bowl season is in full effect, the NFL is preparing to finish up its regular season Sunday. For rookies like Dont'a Hightower and Chandler Jones, that means their first experience with a 16-game season, a spike up from a normal college slate of 12-14 games.

On Friday, Hightower and Jones talked about transitioning to a prolonged schedule, and how they are feeling at this point of their inaugural NFL season.

"I feel good," Hightower said. "Up to this point, the older guys have been telling me to take care of my body, and I do all the things I need to take care and get to this point of the season. Overall, I feel pretty good."

Hightower and Jones both said that the bigger adjustment is in the mental aspect of preparation, not the physical transition.

"I feel like it would be more mentally than physically," Hightower noted. "Of course everybody is physically gifted to get to this point and blessed, but mentally, if you can't come in and get treatment and massages and watch extra film and try to stay on top of things like that, then the mental aspect is definitely the hardest and heaviest part of trying to transform into a professional NFL player."

Added Jones, "Going into your first pro season, it's all mental. Knowing that you're going to play four-plus [more] games than you did in college; it's an automatic 16 [games] not including the playoffs. It's mental, when it gets late in the season like this, it's always mind over matter."

And though the pair of rookies will be counted on in the playoffs, neither is looking that far ahead.

"I'm not touching [the] playoffs," Hightower said. "We're all about Miami right now."
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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