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Patriots lose Dont’a Hightower for season to torn pectoral

Dont'a Hightower plays a crucial role for the New England Patriots, which makes his season-ending injury a major blow to the team.

The already struggling Patriots defense has lost one of its top players.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower is out for the season with a torn pectoral, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Hightower suffered the injury tackling Falcons running back Devonta Freeman on Sunday night.

The Patriots kept Hightower with a four-year, $35.5 million contract this offseason. Hightower didn’t receive as many big-money offers as he was hoping for, in part because teams were concerned about his injury history.

The injury is a blow to the Patriots’ defense, as Hightower is one of their top players when healthy. Although the Patriots’ defense played well against the Falcons, for most of this season it has been one of the worst defenses in the NFL.