Dont’a Hightower helped the New England Patriots win a Super Bowl title, but he might not be on the field when they begin their quest to defend it.

The Patriots linebacker is expected to miss six to seven months while recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum, a source told the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe.

Of course, half a year is a long period of time, so it’s entirely possible Hightower gets ahead of schedule. Patriots fans are hoping that’s the case, as the team opens training camp July 29 and plays its first regular-season game Sept. 10. A six- to seven-month window would mean he’d return by the middle of August at the earliest and the middle of September at the latest.

The 24-year-old first appeared on the team’s injury report with a shoulder injury in Week 14 but played in all of New England’s playoff games. In Super Bowl XLIX, Hightower brought down Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch at the 1-yard line to set up Malcolm Butler’s game-winning interception.

Hightower tallied six sacks in 2014 — tied with Chandler Jones for second most on the team — despite missing four games. If healthy, the trio of Hightower, Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins could be a fearsome combination in 2015.

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