FOXBORO, Mass. — Dont’a Hightower’s first meaningful football game in 20 months wasn’t his best. He knows that.
New England Patriots linebacker and co-captain said his level of play in Sunday’s season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins did not meet his standards.
“We didn’t get the win, that’s the most important thing,” Hightower said Thursday. “Win or loss, I always look for room for improvement, and that’s obviously there. I pride myself on being, not the smartest guy, but I definitely want to push up my awareness as far as situational awareness goes.
“Just all around, I want to play better, obviously. It’s coming along, but obviously I want to play a lot better, be a little bit more impactful.”
Hightower was one of eight Patriots players to opt out of last season due to COVID-19 concerns, and he looked sluggish in his return to the field, lacking his usual explosiveness. He finished with four tackles and was New England’s fourth-lowest-graded defender by Pro Football Focus.
“It’s Week 1, and we’re still growing, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it,” Hightower said. “But obviously, the more guys that play the best that they can, that helps out the team, so I want to do a little bit better than that.”
Running back James White said he didn’t any see signs of rust from the 31-year-old ‘backer.
“He’s a good football player, obviously,” White said. “It doesn’t look like he missed a year. He’s working hard, and he’s a very versatile football player. He can cover, rush, destroy blockers, is good in the run game and pass game. So it’s definitely good to have him back out there.”
Hightower is an important part of a revamped Patriots front seven that added veterans Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Davon Godchaux and second-round draft pick Christian Barmore this offseason. He’ll look to bounce back this Sunday against rookie quarterback Zach Wilson and the New York Jets.