There is significant concern about the injury suffered by Dont'a Hightower on Sunday night. The Patriots linebacker/edge defender reportedly has a shoulder injury that will keep him out of the Sunday against the Chargers, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.
But there’s fear that it could be more than just the shoulder for Hightower, who was hurt in the second half of the victory over the Falcons.
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Hightower had Falcons running back Devonta Freeman squared up but when Freeman cut hard to his left, Hightower lunged to grab him with his right hand. Freeman ran violently through Hightower’s arm and Hightower immediately dropped his head to the turf in pain.
The play looked similar to the one on which former Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo tore his pectoral muscle back in 2013 against the Saints.
Howe reports that Hightower could miss more than just Sunday’s game. If it is a pectoral muscle, that would require surgery and could end Hightower’s season. In other words, root for just the shoulder.
It may not bode well that the Patriots promoted linebacker Trevor Reilly on Wednesday from their practice squad.
Hightower is one of the Patriots most important players. He missed the first two games with a sprained knee but restored a semblance of normalcy to a struggling Pats defense as he settled back in at linebacker after spending more time at defensive end.
Hightower, 27, signed a four-year, $43.5 million deal in March which had $17 million fully guaranteed. There was definite interest from other teams in Hightower, but there was also concern about his durability. Entering this season, he’d missed 13 games in five seasons.
Sunday in Foxboro will mark the third game Hightower will miss this season and there’s fear there may be several more than that.
Losing Hightower would be a huge blow to a Patriots defense, which struggled to get its feet under it before Sunday night.
Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, David Harris and Reilly are now the main linebackers. Outside linebacker Shea McClellin is on injured reserve but started practicing last week and could return after the Patriots’ bye week.
The trade deadline is next Tuesday. By then the Patriots will surely know if they need to be in the market for someone to step in for Hightower. There really is no replacing him.