New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower is done for 2017. The team moved him to injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon.
“Source: the Patriots have placed LB Dont’a Hightower (shoulder) on injured reserve,” wrote ESPN’s Field Yates. “His season is now officially over.”
Hightower only managed to play in five games in 2017. He recorded two sacks and 14 total tackles. He was originally hurt in the blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs to start the year, came back in Week Four, and made it to the win over the Atlanta Falcons. He now has a torn pectoral.
His loss certainly hurts the Patriots. He played very well in 2016 and the Super Bowl, emerging as a leader on the defense. In response, the Patriots gave him a new contract for four years and $35.5 million in the offseason. $17 million was fully guaranteed over 2017 and 2018. To get just five games out of him after a signing like that is not at all what they had in mind.
That said, the team has won without him. The defense, which struggled so mightily to start the year, has improved. Losing him does not derail the Patriots’ changes to be successful in 2017. It does raise some questions about depth and they lose a player with some star power, but they famously hold to the “next man up” mantra, and they’ll have to hope it pays off again.
It certainly worked against the Los Angeles Chargers.
“We just wanted to come out here and play for [Hightower], you know? It’s always rough when you have a season-ending injury, and guys like Harvey Langi, we just want to show our support for them that we’re holding it down for them until they get back,” linebacker Kyle Van Noy said, per Doug Kyed of NESN. “It was a group effort on defense, and we played well.”
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