FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower didn't see any game action this preseason, but he says he's ready to hit the ground running against the Chiefs.
"That's the gameplan, man," he said Monday. "But it's been a long offseason and I've been working, and hopefully this progress will take me into Thursday and we'll see from there."
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Hightower's offseason began with free agency and a flirtation with both the Jets and the Steelers. He ended up back in New England on a four-year deal, and while he was in town for spring workouts, he did not participate in on-the-field work. When training camp began, Hightower remained out. He was on the physically unable to perform list until Aug. 22.
For someone like Hightower, who has been in the same defense for five full seasons and serves as a mentor to linebackers like Kyle Van Noy and David Harris whenever they have questions, missing practice time may not seem like a real impediment to his readiness for the season. But he admitted that missing time has its consequences for everyone -- even someone who has been the signal-caller for the defense for multiple seasons.
"You might hear that vets want to show up the last two or three weeks," Hightower said, "but in all reality each day that you miss, you're losing a day on your craft. With the young guys learning as much as they are nowadays, you're not trying to let anybody get a step over you. I did miss out on that time, but I was working."
Where he's been working has been one of the intriguing storylines to follow this summer. Because reporters never watched him practice fully, it's unclear if he's been working as a traditional off-the-ball linebacker or as more of an edge defender. During warmups for practices, he's often seen participating with defensive linemen.
Is that an indication he'll be used more by Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia as an end-of-the-line defender? With Harris in the mix, will that free up Hightower to do more on the edge? He wouldn't say. But he did give a nod to the fact that he'll continue to be used in a variety of ways, as he has been since arriving to the team as a first-round rookie in 2012.
"That's something that a lot of guys take a lot of pride in is vers. Obviously rushing inside and outside -- on an end, the tackle, the nose -- is different but we have a lot of guys who can do that . . . It's kind of hard to say [where rushes will come from]. Bill and Matty P., they draw up a little bit of everything. As long as I'm out there, that's all I'm worried about."
For the first time in a long time, on Thursday, he will be out there.