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Patriots’ Matt Judon to wear pink in honor of mother’s breast cancer battle – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Outside linebacker Matt Judon has quickly endeared himself to New England Patriots fans with exemplary performance and red sleeves that pop like his play. But preparing for a big home game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS), Judon is all about pink.

The Patriots will be highlighting the NFL’s “Crucial Catch” mission to fight cancer through early detection and risk reduction. The mission hits close to Judon’s heart after his mother, Pieretta Hairston, was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020.

“My mom means the world to me. When we wear those colors, or we say ‘real men wear pink,’ it’s not just out there to put on a show. A lot of our family members, or people we know and love, went through that. It’s very real,” Judon said Tuesday. “Bringing awareness to the situation, and also empowering the people going through it, it means so much.”

Thankfully for Pieretta, she isn’t going through the toughest parts of it anymore. She received word that she was in remission about four months ago, which was news she had prayed for since receiving the initial diagnosis that doctors at University of Michigan Hospital told her was detected between Stage 1 and 2.

The first thing Pieretta did was take a picture of the paperwork and text it to her 10 children.

“To ring that bell on my last day of treatment, I know a lot of people don’t get to because they find it late. But finding it early helped me a lot,” she said. “They told me the type I had was very aggressive, and moves fast, and could have moved into my chest, throat and brain area. I’m grateful every day I wake up that I still have my life.”

For Judon, who has already registered 6.5 sacks this season, talking about Pieretta shows a compassionate side that is in contrast to his high-intensity, ultra-physical style of play.

“I can speak for hours about my mom, and tell story after story about the amazing person she is,” he said. “So her being able to still be here after going through that, you just never [know]; life is so short. With that being said, I’m just thankful and blessed that I can still call my mom. Or when I see her, I can still hug her and kiss her. She just tells me she’s proud of me, and that means everything.”

It means everything to Pieretta that Judon will be wearing pink Sunday — possibly gloves or cleats — along with those sharp red sleeves.

“I’m always the person in the background, but it’s an honor to be able to see him wear pink for me. Just to be here, among the land of the living, is a total blessing,” she said.

A dark day

Judon, 29, was preparing for his fifth and final season with the Baltimore Ravens when he first learned of Pieretta’s diagnosis. Pieretta’s motherly instincts took over initially.

“I was more worried about my kids than myself. With Matt being in the forefront, trying to keep him calm and not worried about me a lot,” she said. “I knew I had to get through it — for myself and for them.

“It was a dark day for me. I had to figure out how I was going to sit down and tell my children what was going on. You get a lot of mixed feelings. You ask, ‘After all I’ve been through, why me?’ I just hit the ground running.”

The timing of the diagnosis, on Feb. 27, 2020, created additional challenges.

“The pandemic started in March, so I felt like I was in a pandemic within a pandemic. I knew it was a dangerous time. It was like double life or death for me,” she said.

It tested one of Judon’s core beliefs — that life’s journey is enriched by personal connection and the quality of people surrounding you — because he couldn’t be side by side with his mother.

“When you get that diagnosis, it’s like ‘Let’s rally around this person and go see them.’ But in the pandemic, you kind of have to stay away from that person to keep them safe,” he said. “I know she wasn’t the only person who got that diagnosis through COVID, and I just sympathize with so many people that couldn’t see their loved ones for however long it was.”

Pieretta had her final chemotherapy treatment in early July before having surgery. Then came radiation treatments, every day over one month.

Judon proudly points out that Pieretta didn’t miss a single appointment, no matter how sick or tired she might have been. And she was — often.

“Radiation was worse than the other treatments. I know what burn victims feel like now,” she said. “It was the worst pain I had ever felt, and I had 10 children.”

It is obvious where Judon, in his first year with the Patriots, gets the toughness that is hard to miss on the football field. He also received something else from his mother that he’s thankful for each day.

“She did so much for all 10 of her kids. She raised us right, with manners, respect and dignity,” he said. “She instilled in each and every one of us that we are no lesser than anybody. She would always say, ‘Don’t tell me what that person can do, tell me what you can do.'”

In addition to wearing pink on Sunday for his mother, Judon will also continue to wear the jersey number 9 — a switch from the 99 he wore in Baltimore. He said it represents his siblings, whom he plays for each time he takes the field.

Mother and son bond grows stronger

Pieretta attended the Patriots’ season opener against the Miami Dolphins and was in Houston for Sunday’s win against the Houston Texans. Judon said he was so engaged in catching up with her and many other family members that the team buses actually began to leave the stadium without him.

“They had to stop and pick me up. I might get some lashings, but it was worth it,” he said, smiling.

Pieretta doesn’t plan to attend Sunday’s game, but will be watching closely from home.

“I love him so much,” she said. “He was my first baby boy before I had my last four children; my first baby boy for six years. I spoiled him.”

The bond between mother and son was always strong, but it’s never been stronger than now. It’s one reason Judon signed on to become an ambassador for the American Cancer Society’s “Real Men Wear Pink” campaign, which engages male community leaders and influencers in the Society’s mission to eliminate breast cancer.

Judon wore pink when he arrived at Sunday’s game in Houston. He’ll do it again Sunday, when he looks forward to seeing cancer survivors in attendance for the game against the Cowboys.

“I’m thankful the NFL allows us to go out and represent people who can’t. And the people that can, we bring them out and show them a good time and bring them excitement with the game,” he said. “Then after, just laugh and love with them, because joy mends the soul.”



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Short-handed Pittsburgh Steelers will take on Cincinnati Bengals without cornerback Joe Haden

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers placed two players on the injured reserve list Saturday, and downgraded another to out for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Steelers ruled out cornerback Joe Haden, downgraded from questionable with a mid-foot sprain, and they put tight end Eric Ebron and center/guard J.C. Hassenauer on IR.

Ebron injured a knee last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, apparently during his fourth-quarter touchdown. He is expected to miss extended time with surgery, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler earlier this week.

Ebron was a co-starter along with rookie tight end Pat Freiermuth. He has had a reduced role this season with just 12 catches for 84 yards and a receiving touchdown as well as a rushing TD.

Hassenauer, who was starting in place of guard Kevin Dotson, injured a pectoral muscle early in the loss to the Chargers. Tackle Joe Haeg replaced Hassenauer a week ago, but the Steelers are likely to turn to B.J. Finney, a veteran interior offensive lineman, to replace him in the long term.

With both Dotson and Hassenauer now on IR, the Steelers signed practice squad offensive lineman John Leglue to the active roster.

The team also elevated defensive lineman Daniel Archibong and wide receiver Anthony Miller ahead of Sunday’s game, and signed kicker Sam Sloman to the practice squad.

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Tennessee Titans place wide receiver A.J. Brown on injured reserve

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The Tennessee Titans placed wide receiver A.J. Brown on injured reserve on Saturday ahead of their matchup with the New England Patriots.

Brown suffered chest, rib and hand injuries during last week’s 22-13 loss to the Houston Texans. He played 40 offensive snaps and finished with five receptions for 48 yards on nine targets.

“Walking by faith as always. GOD makes no mistakes,” Brown posted on social media after the news broke that is headed for IR.

Brown will now be out for the next three weeks. The earliest that Brown will be able to return is when Tennessee faces the San Francisco 49ers on Dec 23 on Thursday night football.

In 10 games, Brown has 46 receptions for 615 yards and three touchdowns. He also missed Tennessee’s Week 4 loss to the New York Jets because of a knee injury.

The Titans signed veteran free agent receiver Golden Tate to their practice squad last Tuesday. But they did not elevate him to the active roster after he practiced with the team on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The Titans will likely turn to rookie Dez Fitzpatrick to start in place of Brown. Tennessee utilized the COVID elevation to make receiver Cody Hollister available to them on Sunday against the Patriots.

Hollister joins Fitzpatrick, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Chester Rogers as the wide receivers that will be available for quarterback Ryan Tannehill on Sunday.

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Mike Vrabel, Bill Belichick set for Round 3 as the Tennessee Titans travel to the New England Patriots – Tennessee Titans Blog

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel calmly stood on the sideline as his team was clung to a 14-13 lead in the AFC wild-card game against the New England Patriots two seasons ago.

With just under six minutes left, Titans punter Brett Kern assumed his position to field the snap, but it didn’t come as the final seconds ticked off of the play clock. The Titans got a delay of game penalty.

The clock then started running and linebacker Wesley Woodyard drew a false start penalty, thus wasting more time. Before the Titans could commit another delay of game, the Patriots went offside and wasted even more time.

The television cameras portrayed a visibly irritated Bill Belichick spewing expletives at the officials. An additional minute bled off the clock before Kern punted the football.

Vrabel, who played eight seasons for Belichick with the Patriots, outfoxed his former coach to seal a 20-13 win, thus ending New England’s season.

That game was the only time Vrabel faced off with Belichick other than a 34-10 win for the Titans in 2018.

The tradition and history is not going to win or lose the game for anybody,” Vrabel said of his former team ahead of another matchup against them. “I think we all know where the banners are and the success that organization has had over the last 20 years.

“What will win or lose [Sunday’s] game is playing sound, fundamental football, taking care of the football, penalties, playing with great technique.”

However, Vrabel downplayed any idea of him going against Belichick when asked about the coaching matchup.

“Bill and I won’t be squaring off to determine this game,” Vrabel said. “This game will be won, like it always is, by the players.”

Belichick and the Patriots (7-4) will look to get their first win against a Vrabel-led Titans (8-3) team Sunday (1 p.m. ET, CBS) at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

“Mike’s done a great job at Tennessee,” Belichick said in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI. “I have always had a lot of respect for Mike, and certainly had a ton of respect for him when he was a position coach and as a head coach, for sure. It will be a big challenge. Tennessee is obviously a good football team, one of the best teams in the league. Other than when we play him, I’m rooting for him. But not this week.”

Tennessee was tied for the best record in the NFL and had the best record in the AFC entering last Sunday’s game before losing to the Houston Texans, who had the worst record in the conference.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, the Titans’ loss to the Texans was the latest into the season a team with the outright worst record in a conference has beaten the team with the outright best record in that conference. The prior latest was in Week 7 of the 1979 season when the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Five turnovers proved to be the ultimate equalizer in what was supposed to be a lopsided matchup. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill‘s first of four interceptions occurred in the red zone and was returned to the Titans’ 6-yard line. Chester Rogers had a punt bounce off of his foot that was downed at Tennessee’s 5-yard line. The turnovers resulted in 10 points.

Although the Patriots have forced 13 turnovers during their five-game winning streak — which is now the longest in the NFL after the Titans lost — and the Titans’ five turnovers cost them Sunday, Belichick doesn’t expect Vrabel’s Titans to be as careless.

“They turned the ball over against the Texans, which is hard to count on,” Belichick said. “That’s not what they do, so I don’t think we’ll get that. It’s a typical Mike team – they’re tough, they’re physical, they make you beat them, they don’t make many mistakes. They know what they’re doing. They’re sound. They’re a good fundamental team.”

The Titans experienced a similar surge in turnovers when they had 11 takeaways during their six-game winning streak which was ended by Houston.

The two coaches offered up scouting reports on each other’s teams on Monday. It’s no coincidence they mentioned similar attributes.

“They are turning the football over,” Vrabel said. “Guys understand where to create turnovers at and they are good on the edges. Guys play with great technique up front. They are running the football and marrying that with the play-action game. Receivers all block, they are all selfless, they all understand that their effort is going to help whichever back they have in the game at the time run the football. The quarterback is accurate.”

“Tough, physical team,” Belichick said. “They tackle well. The backs and receivers run hard with the ball. The quarterback’s athletic. They’re sound in the kicking game. We’re going to have to play a good football game in all three phases.”

Going back to New England is special for Vrabel. Of course, he’ll enjoy returning to Gillette Stadium. But it’ll also be a chance to spend time with his son, Tyler, who plays offensive line for nearby Boston College.

“Coaching in this league and being involved in the National Football League is special,” Vrabel said. “The opportunity to get to coach this football team, to get to travel to other stadiums, certainly this one, having spent eight years there. Tyler’s going to be there since he is going to school there. I think it will be cool.”

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