There's no doubt the New England Patriots will go into the playoffs with several key players injured. Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola are expected to be ready by the time New England takes the field in the divisional round, while Devin McCourty is hoping to do the same.
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower missed two games after spraining his MCL against the Denver Broncos last month, but he's recovered fairly quickly and was able to return against the Tennessee Titans in Week 15. However, that doesn't mean he's completely healthy just yet.
“I’m definitely not 100 percent, but I’m feeling good,” Hightower said on WEEI radio Monday. “I’m definitely back feeling good. The last couple of quarters, I definitely felt good getting out there and running around. I feel like I got my burst back, so I’m just trying to build off of that.”
Hightower played 48 of 56 snaps, which is a good sign for the Patriots play-making linebacker. The defense looks noticeably different without him on the field, which is why New England needs him to stay healthy. If they get out to a big lead against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Hightower could find himself on the sideline rather than risking a re-injury.
He's fifth on the team with 61 tackles and has added 3 1/2 sacks, as well. Like Jamie Collins, he changes the way the defense plays, both against the pass and the run.