FOXBORO, Mass. — One of the New England Patriots’ most important defensive players was back on the practice field Thursday.
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower practiced in front of reporters for the first time since returning from his 2020 opt-out. He did not attend the first two organized team activities practices that were open to reporters.
Hightower, who has not played since the 2019 playoffs, was a full participant, taking part in all positional and team drills.
Headlining the list of absences Thursday was quarterback Cam Newton, who remains sidelined with the hand injury he suffered last Friday. Head coach Bill Belichick shared an update on Newton before practice, saying the QB is “doing all right” and “getting better.”
K Nick Folk
WR Nelson Agholor
CB Stephon Gilmore
RB Brandon Bolden
RB Sony Michel
RB James White
OLB Rashod Berry
LB Terez Hall
OT Isaiah Wynn
TE Jonnu Smith
WR Devin Smith
DT Lawrence Guy
DT Byron Cowart
Agholor, the Patriots’ projected No. 1 receiver, was a new absence, as were Guy and Berry. The rest have yet to practice in front of reporters this spring.
Tight end Hunter Henry suffered an apparent ankle/foot injury early in 11-on-11s drills and did not take another offensive rep. He remained on the sideline throughout practice, however, and was on the field for a late field goal drill, suggesting his injury was not serious.
Linebackers Anfernee Jennings and Cameron McGrone were present but did not participate. Rookie safety Joshuah Bledsoe practiced with a cast on his right wrist after undergoing offseason surgery.
The Patriots are scheduled to hold their final voluntary OTA on Friday and their three-day mandatory minicamp next week before breaking for the summer.