Patriots: Dont’a Hightower not returning to game after apparent injury flew under radar

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 12: Dont'a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 12: Dont'a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots figured to level up on the defensive end this season, as they welcomed Dont’a Hightower back into the fold after his 2020 opt-out amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While he looked a bit sluggish at times in his debut against the Miami Dolphins, he was far from the biggest weak spot.

Hightower is the archetype for an oversized linebacker that can dominate in the trenches Bill Belichick loves to utilize, and despite the fact that New England picked up a handful of players with a similar playing style, the coaching staff would like to keep No. 54 on the field as much as possible.

Unfortunately, the Patriots may have picked up unfortunate injury news pertaining to Hightower. Right as the Dolphins were trying to put the game on ice after a Damien Harris fumble, Hightower appeared to come up a bit gimpy, hopping around on one foot and then not returning in the final couple of minutes.

Could this be a precursor to a lower leg injury that sidelines him for some game time, or just a minor bump and bruise that he’ll put behind him? We’ve heard nothing since.

Is Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower injured?

Hightower may only have two Pro Bowls to his name, but that only goes to show he’s one of the more criminally underrated players that we’ve seen over the last decade. He can shut down the running game with his size while also holding his own in coverage. In a league where linebackers are dying off in favor of DBs, Hightower is still quality.

If the veteran misses time, look for Kyle Van Noy or Ja’Whuan Bentley to fill in at his normal spot. Josh Uche had some experience in a similar role during his time at Michigan, so he can’t be discarded as a potential fill-in. Let’s just hope this was a stinger that won’t force him to sit out against the Jets, Saints, or Buccaneers in the next few weeks.

Miami only ran six plays after this, and three of them were Tua Tagovailoa kneel-downs, so it’s difficult to really gauge the severity of the injury or how New England’s defense will look without Hightower. At the very least, we’d just like an update.

The one silver lining is that Hightower is as tough as they come, and if he has all of his limbs attached to his body, he’s going to make an attempt to play. Disrupting Zach Wilson will be the main goal the Patriots need to accomplish to pick up the win next week, and you can bet he’ll be helping immensely in that regard if he can take the field.