New England Patriots: Dont’a Hightower, Alan Branch to start training camp on PUP list

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 16: Dont'a Hightower
FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 16: Dont'a Hightower /

The New England Patriots are set to open up training camp this week. However, two key players will be on the PUP list.

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, two starters from the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl LI victory will start training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

On Monday, Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, and offensive lineman Andrew Jelks were all placed on the PUP list.

Hightower, the team’s top inside linebacker, started 13 games for New England in 2016 while Branch finished with 15 starts at defensive tackle. Both players collected over 60% of the team’s defensive snaps last season.

For the Patriots’ defense, both Hightower and Branch are extremely important in the middle. If either missed significant time, the middle of the Patriots’ defense would certainly become much weaker. Luckily, the Patriots do have good depth at both positions, however, they certainly don’t want two of their best defensive players banged up before camp.

The two defenders were both limited in New England’s minicamp this June, according to NESN’s Doug Kyed.

In last week’s edition of ‘Patriots Digest‘, the potential of Hightower missing time in training camp due to injury was discussed:

"“Given the abundance of injuries he’s suffered in the past, the team should wait until Hightower is fully-healthy before he participates in training camp.”"

The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe noted that Branch’s presence on the PUP list isn’t too concerning, Tweeting:

Jelks joined New England as an undrafted free agent following April’s draft. According to the Patriots website, he’s dealt with injuries in the past:

"“[Jelks] missed his final two [college] seasons in 2015 and 2016 due to injuries.”"

Unlike season ending injured reserve, players on the PUP list still occupy spots on New England’s roster. They can be removed from the list at any time from the beginning of training camp to roster cut down day.

The Patriots begin training camp on Thursday, July 27. Hopefully, we will be seeing both Hightower and Branch in training camp very soon.