Is anyone really 100 percent this time of year? Dont’a Hightower isn’t.
The New England Patriots linebacker played the last two weeks after missing two games with a knee injury, but while his status has improved, the 25-year-old still looks and sounds like a player who’s battling an ailment as the AFC East champions prepare for their Week 17 showdown with the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium.
“I’m definitely not 100 percent, but I’m feeling good,” Hightower said Monday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria.” “I’m definitely back feeling good. The last couple of quarters (Week 16 against the New York Jets) definitely felt good getting out there and running around. I feel like I got my burst back. I’m just trying to build off of that.”
Hightower suffered his knee injury Nov. 29 against the Denver Broncos. He missed New England’s games against the Philadelphia Eagles and Houston Texans before returning Dec. 20 against the Tennessee Titans. The fourth-year pro left the Patriots’ Week 15 game against the Titans after seemingly reinjuring his knee, but he returned Sunday against the New York Jets sporting a brace.
“I felt more confident going through the week of practice than I did in the previous week,” Hightower said Monday. “Like I said, it just felt a lot better as the game went on. I guess I just got a better grasp of the game and was able to just play through it.”
Hightower played more than half of New England’s defensive snaps Sunday, so it’s not like his injury is preventing him from making an impact, particularly against opposing rushing attacks. It’s clearly something he’s managing, though, and it’s worth monitoring as the Patriots gear up for the playoffs.
Thumbnail photo via Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports Images