The New England Patriots were already short-handed along the defensive front after losing several contributors during the offseason and then seeing third-round pick Derek Rivers tear his ACL, but they got even more bad news for the front seven when Dont'a Hightower injured his knee and left their Week 1 game against the Kansas City Chiefs

The injury was originally reported as a minor MCL sprain, but according to a report from, it seems like it could be a bit more serious than that. Hightower this week saw renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss. 

When Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower injured his right knee in the season opener but remained on the sideline the rest of the game -- at one point riding a stationary bike -- it was generally viewed as a sign that the injury wasn't severe and might not even keep him out one week. Since that time, I'm told that Hightower sought a second opinion over the last week from Dr. James Andrews. When I saw Hightower a few days ago, he didn't confirm plans to visit Andrews, but he also didn't deny it, only saying with a smile, "I'm OK." That Hightower was believed to be seeking more clarity on the injury days after the opener was notable to me based on the initial optimism. This is the same knee that led to him beginning training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Hightower professed that he's OK, but going to see Dr. Andrews is never a good sign. He was already ruled out for the Week 2 game against the Saints earlier this week, but if he's visiting Dr. Andrews, missing more games is probably on the table. 

Hightower is one of the team's best defensive players, and one of only a couple reliable pass-rushers along with Trey Flowers. He signed a new four-year, $43.5 million deal (containing $19 million in guarantees) with the Patriots this offseason, after being courted by the Jets and Steelers, among others. He's coming off Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections last season, and the Patriots will need him on the field as they make their playoff push late in the year.