Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower returns to practice following opt-out

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The New England Patriots were back on the practice fields on Thursday for their ninth organized team activity. The session, which was open to reporters again, also saw the return of a player previously absent during voluntary workouts this spring: linebacker Dont’a Hightower is back.

A cornerstone of the New England defense ever since getting drafted in the first round back in 2012, Hightower missed the entire 2020 season after opting out — one of a league-high eight players that the Patriots lost to the Coronavirus opt-out clause. But while a majority of them will not be back this year, the team captain is.

Entering the final year of his contract, Hightower is again expected to play a prominent role in the team’s rebuilt defensive front seven. The most experienced linebacker on the roster, he will likely resume his role as the on-field signal caller and a leader in the locker room.

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