FOXBORO, Mass. — It’s been a long time since Dont’a Hightower spoke to the media about football. It’s been six months and 18 days, to be exact, from when the Patriots won Super Bowl LI to the day after the linebacker passed his physical and came off the physically unable to perform list.
A lot has happened in that time. Hightower became an unrestricted free agent, visited the Pittsburgh Steelers, and received some birthday cupcakes from the New York Jets and interest from the Tennessee Titans. Ultimately he chose to re-sign with the Patriots on a four-year, $35.5 million contract with additional incentives, but he didn’t practice in the spring and started training camp on the PUP list before being activated Tuesday.
Hightower’s happy to be home.
“It’s good. I’m glad I didn’t have to relocate,” Hightower said Wednesday. “Stressful but glad it’s over with. Glad I’m here. I’m glad I’m back on the field now.”
Hightower, whom the Patriots picked in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, said there were times when he thought he would play for a different team in 2017.
“Yeah, it’s free agency,” Hightower said. “But it is what it is. It’s over and done with now. I’m here.”
Patriots safety and fellow captain Devin McCourty helped recruit Hightower back to New England after his daughter was born. McCourty relayed Tuesday that he told Hightower his daughter wanted to meet him — in Foxboro.
Hightower, with two Super Bowl championships and monumental plays in those games, deserves to be mentioned in the long list of distinguished Patriots linebackers who have played under Bill Belichick, including Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel and Jerod Mayo. Hightower knows what it means to be a Patriot.
“It’s meant a lot,” Hightower said. “I’ve been here my whole career. It wasn’t a hard change for what I had in college, so I was definitely used to it. So it wasn’t a big change. I feel like I’ve had a lot of success in programs like this. Alabama and New England are not too far different. The culture around here, the teammates, the coaches is second to none anywhere. When it came down to my decision, it wasn’t too hard of a choice.”
Hightower could see his first preseason action Friday night against the Detroit Lions. If he doesn’t play in the Patriots’ third preseason game, he might not take the field until the Sept. 7 regular-season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images
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