FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the unusual aspects of the New England Patriots' 34-31 overtime victory over the Denver Broncos was the in-game disappearance of second-year linebacker Dont'a Hightower. He played the first 33 defensive snaps and that was it.
Hightower appeared to be dealing with some type of physical ailment during the game, but it wasn't enough to land him on the injury report as he participated in full on Wednesday in the first practice of the new week.
"The best way to put it was that it's how things worked out -- me coming out for a series and I don't want to go too far into it," he said."But things happened during the game, I came out a series, and then the way things were working I didn't really have to go back in. Dane [Fletcher] finished the game and played a helluva game."
Fletcher added a bit more speed to the lineup in playing over Hightower, who on one of his final plays had trouble with a screen pass on third-and-20 that the Broncos converted. Hightower was pushed out of the way rather easily.
"I tried to make a play, setting up the inside guy to hit the outside guy, but the inside guy hit me and obviously threw me out. I messed up on that, misread it a little bit. Just tried to make a different play on it and split the defenders, but didn't get it done," Hightower said. "It was a really good play [by the offense]. More or less I just have to be able to take out both of those guys so hopefully my teammates can rally up and get there [and] just definitely trying to alert everyone else prior to the play."
Hightower has now played 72.4 percent of the defensive snaps this season, which is up from 51 percent last year. With Jerod Mayo lost to a season-ending injury on Oct. 13, he says, the "burden has been pushed on a lot of guys with all the injuries going around, and guys having to step up and things they haven't been doing."
For Hightower, that has sometimes meant leading the huddle and showing younger players the ropes.
"In the long run, and the reason why I love New England, I could care less about making the big play. I could care less about making the strip sack or the fumble, or anything," he said. "All those things are good, but if I can put my teammates in position to make that play, that's fine with me. I don't have to be the star. I can be the guy that everybody says ‘whatever' about, but as long as we get the W and the job done, I don't care either way."