Bill Belichick reacts to Dont'a Hightower's return to Patriots defense

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Belichick reacts to Dont'a Hightower's return to Patriots defense originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Dont'a Hightower is back on the field at New England Patriots minicamp this week, and head coach Bill Belichick sounds pretty happy about the veteran linebacker's return.

“It was good to see (Hightower). He’s worked right in very quickly,” Belichick said Monday during his video press conference.

“He's obviously a smart player with a lot of experience. A lot of leadership for us on the team. But again, we’re not really in an evaluation mode here, so we’ll see how that goes for everybody when we get to that point.”

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Hightower opted out of the 2020 NFL season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He returned to the team last week and should be one of the most intriguing players at mandatory minicamp Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

If you ranked the most important players to the Patriots defense, Hightower would be near the top of the list if not No. 1.

Not only is Hightower a very talented, experienced and intelligent player, his understanding of the Patriots defense and the institutional knowledge he brings will be quite valuable as the team adds several new players to the mix on that side of the ball in 2021.

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The Patriots were busy rebuilding their defense in the offseason, particularly in free agency where they signed defensive linemen Montravius Adams, Henry Anderson and Davon Godchaux, linebackers Matthew Judon and Raekwon McMillan, and defensive back Jalen Mills among others.

Hightower's presence will help those players' transition into the Patriots defensive system as well as the team's overall culture.