Bill Belichick expects Dont’a Hightower to play in 2021, but says ‘we know things can change’

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As OTA’s for the New England Patriots are in full swing, linebacker Dont’a Hightower is not participating. Hightower opted out of the 2020 season, looks to return as a major leader of the Patriots defense.

Drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft, Hightower has been a fixture within the Patriots linebacking group. In his Patriots career, Hightower has recorded 505 tackles and 25.5 sacks in eight seasons with New England.

On Thursday, Bill Belichick was asked if he expects Hightower to remain on the roster when preseason training camp gets underway in a couple of months.

“With all the players who are on the roster and not here, my expectations are that they intend to play, but we know things can change,” Belichick said. “That’s always part of life and part of football. We’ll take it as it comes.

“Guys who are here are working hard. They’re learning, they’re physically improving their training and conditioning and their strength and explosion. The fundamentals and techniques are improving. I know that a lot of the guys that aren’t here, I know they’re working hard. I know the guys that weren’t here for a period of time — one, two, three, four weeks — that have come here are doing the same thing. I can see that some of those guys have worked hard. They have some things to work on, but I’d say generally speaking the guys that have come in that haven’t been here the whole time have been in pretty good condition and are ready to go. I know each guy has his own circumstances. I’m not going to get into that.

“But we’ll see how it goes with some of the players who aren’t here, which is a number of them that aren’t. We’ll welcome them when they get here. It’s all voluntary. When they’re here, they’re here. And we’ll work with them.”

With New England running a solid core of veterans to the defensive side of the football, Hightower has the potential to be an important part of that group.

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