Hightower starts in return from knee injury, plays more than half Patriots snaps

Hightower starts in return from knee injury, plays more than half Patriots snaps

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower hadn't played since the season-opener, but it looked like his conditioning level was just fine midway through the fourth quarter.

Coming in off the left edge, he beat his blocker and chased down Cam Newton to notch his first sack of the season. The play forced a Panthers punt and gave the Patriots possession with 7:27 left in the game. Down 30-23 at the time, Hightower's team had a chance to tie. Ten plays later, they did.  


Though the Patriots couldn't hold off the Panthers late in the fourth quarter, Hightower's sack could be viewed as an encouraging sign for a defense that needs as many of those as it can get at the moment.

Hightower started and played 37 of 63 defensive snaps on Sunday, according to Pro Football Focus, including one as an inside linebacker. For the most part, though, Hightower remained on the edge. That's the role he played exclusively in Week 1 against the Chiefs before suffering a knee injury that sidelined him for wins over New Orleans and Houston. Per PFF, he rushed the passer 16 times -- recording two hurries in addition to his sack -- and dropped into coverage six times.

Hightower missed much of training camp while on the physically unable to perform list, and then his injury against the Chiefs may have stunted any progress he was making with his conditioning. He may still need some time before he's feeling like he's at full strength, but playing more than half the snaps and coming up with a key play late isn't a bad place to build from.

Here's a look at some of the other banged-up Patriots and how they performed . . . 

Marcus Cannon, OT: Returning to his spot as the starting right tackle after dealing with an ankle injury and a concussion that kept him out against the Texans, Cannon played all 70 offensive snaps for the Patriots. He allowed a sack to Julius Peppers and gave up four more pressures in the game, according to Pro Football Focus. 

Eric Rowe, CB: Rowe sat out Week 3 with a groin injury. He said on Sunday that the injury felt 100 percent before the Panthers game, but on the first play of the third quarter he tweaked his groin making a tackle. He did not return and finished the game having played 19 snaps. Had Rowe remained healthy, it would have been interesting to see how the Patriots utilized Stephon Gilmore, as Gilmore sat out the first play of the third quarter with Rowe and Malcolm Butler on the field. Rowe's injury seemed to force Gilmore back into action. Gilmore has missed just 12 snaps on the season. He sat for 11 against the Texans as he dealt with dehydration.

Elandon Roberts, LB: The second-year linebacker started the game as an off-the-ball linebacker alongside Kyle Van Noy, making five tackles before leaving the game with an injured ankle. He did not return and finished having played 33 snaps. Roberts was spotted in the locker room after the game with a noticeable limp.  

Jacob Hollister, TE: The undrafted rookie played just three snaps offensively but was involved on special teams as well. He was a late addition to the injury report with a hamstring issue on Saturday. Before the game, he tested the injury with team medical personnel and coach Bill Belichick watching closely. He was held without a catch on one target. This was not a big tight end game for the Patriots as their No. 2, Dwayne Allen, played a season-low nine snaps.


David Harris retires after 11 seasons with Jets, Patriots

File Photo

David Harris retires after 11 seasons with Jets, Patriots

David Harris's 11-year run in the NFL has come to an end. 

On Friday, the linebacker announced his retirement from the game of football after spending 10 seasons with the Jets and one with the Patriots. 

The Jets drafted Harris with the 47th pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. In his rookie season, he racked up 5 sacks and 127 total tackles. His breakout rookie season was an clear indication of the solid player he would become over the course of his career. 

Although he neither won a Super Bowl, nor made it to a Pro Bowl, the linebacker served as a focal point on a Rex Ryan defense that appeared in two AFC Championships in 2010 and 2011. 

When he was released in 2017, the 34-year-old made a career choice to sign with the Patriots to compete for a Super Bowl.

He didn't go out a champion, but a trip to the Super Bowl was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for one of the most underrated linebackers of the past decade. 



What was Odell Beckham Jr. telling Kyrie Irving?

AP Photo

What was Odell Beckham Jr. telling Kyrie Irving?

Admittedly, the audio is poor but the idea is no less intriguing.

Was Odell Beckham Jr. telling Kyrie Irving at NBA All-Star Weekend that he's trying to go to the Patriots? Or to Boston? Or New England? 

It's 23 seconds into the video below: 

Isaiah Houde of USA TODAY's PatriotsWire interprets it as: "You went to the Celtics and I’m trying to go to New England."

Beckham has had a few Instagram posts about Brady recently, including an exchange of rap lyrics back in December. 


A post shared by Odell Beckham Jr (@obj) on

Unless there's a trade between the Patriots and Giants, Beckham, 25, the three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver, won't be free to join Kyrie in New England - or was it Boston? - until the four-year deal he signed in 2014 ends after this season. Oh, and as he enters that 2019 season, Tom Brady will be 42.