Hightower is entering the offseason program at around 250-255 pounds, Dakota Randall of NESN reports. Linebackers around the league seem to be shedding weight in an effort to stay on the field more often on passing downs. Hightower, who checked in at 265 pounds at the 2012 NFL Combine and has played around 270 at times, appears to be following suit. Moreover, the 2016 All-Pro has evidently been active in offseason workouts and is seemingly in good health after spraining his toe in the Super Bowl.
Hightower wore a walking boot to protect a toe sprain during the Patriots' championship parade Tuesday, Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports. This sounds like a matter of being cautious in a chaotic environment rather than any level of concern about the injury being serious. Hightower showed no sign of limitations during the Super Bowl, finishing with two sacks, a batted pass and three quarterback hits on 56 defensive snaps (86 percent). He has two seasons remaining on a four-year, $33.5 million contract, with $2 million of his 2019 base salary ($7 million) scheduled to become guaranteed March 17, per OverTheCap.com. While his regular-season statistics may not justify the lofty salary, Hightower has an impressive history of stepping up when it matters most.
Hightower (illness) was a full practice participant Friday and doesn't have any injury designation for the Super Bowl, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com reports. Held out of practice the day prior, Hightower seems to have made a quick recovery and should be fine to handle his usual three-down role come Sunday. He played every snap on defense in the AFC Championship Game, notching two tackles (one for loss) and a quarterback hit in a 37-31 win over the Chiefs.
Hightower was held out of Thursday's practice session due to illness. Hightower first appeared on the injury report Thursday as the team had a walkthrough in lieu of a full practice. It's unclear what the specifics of the issue are or if he's in jeopardy of being held out or seeing a reduced role Sunday. Looking ahead to the big game, if Hightower is at all limited then Brandon King or Albert McClellan would likely see an uptick in snaps.
Hightower recorded two solo tackles and a sack during Sunday's 34-33 loss to the Dolphins. Hightower contributed one of New England's five sacks, though that wasn't enough to leave the Patriots with a victory. It was Hightower's first sack of the season, and he'll look to keep it going in a pivotal matchup with the Steelers on Sunday.
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