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NFL notebook: Patriots LB Hightower out 6-7 months

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New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower reportedly will be out six to seven months after undergoing surgery to repair a torn right labrum.

Hightower had surgery Feb. 10, according to the Boston Globe.

The injury kept Hightower out in Week 14 against the San Diego Chargers, but he returned to play the rest of the season — other than an insignificant Week 17 game against the Buffalo Bills.

Hightower had 33 tackles and 1.5 sacks while playing with the injury, according to the Globe.

Hightower is the fourth Patriot to undergo surgery this offseason. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer also had a torn labrum repaired, right guard Ryan Wendell underwent shoulder surgery as well, and defensive tackle Chris Jones had a torn calf muscle fixed.

—Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano reportedly turned down a one-year contract extension and will finish the final year of his deal in 2015.

The Colts offered Pagano a one-year extension with a small salary increase, which he declined, according to a report Thursday by Dianna Marie Russini of NBC’s Washington affiliate.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media initially reported Thursday that Pagano would not receive an extension before the 2015 season.

Pagano signed a four-year contract in 2012, and the Colts have won 11 games and reached the playoffs in each of Pagano’s three years. He missed most of his first season while battling leukemia.

—Nebraska junior pass rusher Randy Gregory tested positive for marijuana at the NFL combine in February.

Gregory is NFLDraftScout.com’s No. 8 overall prospect in the draft.

“I blame myself,” Gregory told NFL.com’s Kimberly Jones. “And I know it sounds cliché, but there’s really no one else I can blame.”

Gregory’s past drug use was a concern in league circles before the failed test, dating back to high school and his time at junior college. NFL scouts often point out that marijuana testing at the NFL combine is more of an “idiot test” because every prospect and agent knows about it well ahead of time.

—One year after the San Francisco 49ers traded for offensive tackle Jonathan Martin in the aftermath of a bullying incident in Miami, the team released him on Thursday.

The 6-foot-5, 312-pound Martin played in 15 games and started nine last season for the 49ers, who acquired him from the Dolphins last March for a 2015 seventh-round draft pick.

If none of the 31 other NFL teams claim Martin off waivers, he would become an unrestricted free agent.

In Miami, Martin was the subject of alleged bullying from former teammate Richie Incognito and had left the team after starting 23 games over two seasons.

—The Minnesota Vikings signed Babatunde Aiyegbusi, a 6-foot-9, 351-pound offensive lineman from Poland, on Thursday.

Aiyegbusi, 27, has played in Europe the past two years — helping the Wroclaw Giants win the championship in the Polish American Football League and the Dresden Monarchs advance to the semifinals of the German Football League in 2014. He did not play college football.

The Vikings also waived linebacker Justin Anderson and guard Jordan McCray on Thursday.

—Defensive tackle Pat Sims, who spent the last two seasons with the Oakland Raiders, returned to the Cincinnati Bengals.

A third-round pick by the Bengals in 2008, Sims played his first five seasons in Cincinnati before signing with the Raiders in 2013. He signed another one-year deal with Oakland last year.

The Bengals did not release terms of his contract, but the Cincinnati Enquirer reported it is a one-year deal for the veteran minimum of $870,000.

In 92 games, including 41 starts, Sims has 264 tackles, seven sacks and one interception.

—Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey re-signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers for one year.

Heyward-Bey caught three passes in 16 games with the Steelers last season and is likely to be the team’s fourth or fifth wide receiver, contributing mostly to special teams.

Heyward-Bey, the seventh overall pick in 2009, has played six seasons with the Raiders, Colts and Steelers.

—New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz won’t be rushed back from a torn patellar tendon and subsequent surgery last October.

Coach Tom Coughlin said the timetable with Cruz is highly conservative, and the team is going to count on him only after seeing him back on the field.

While Cruz is running straight ahead at the team facility as part of his rehab and Coughlin said he looks “good and light,” the Giants are not sure he will be on the field for the season opener in September, 11 months after he was hurt.

—The murder trial of Aaron Hernandez was interrupted by a bomb threat at the Bristol Superior Court courthouse in Fall River, Mass., on Thursday afternoon.

The threat was called in at about noon, and people were evacuated from the building and positioned on the other side of the street.

The trial resumed after 2 p.m. following a search of the area.

Hernandez has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Odin Lloyd.


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