Patriots LB Hightower: "Hell Yeah, I Want to Play in the First Game"

Ian Logue
July 14, 2015 at 06:00am ET

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Malcolm Butler may be the Super Bowl hero after his game-clinching interception against the Seahawks back in February, but Dont'a Hightower's game-saving tackle against Marshawn Lynch the play before was the one that made it possible, playing an intricate part in New England winning their fourth championship.

When the game was over fans learned that Hightower made that play with only one good arm, with the veteran linebacker having undergone surgery this offseason to repair a torn labrum.  The initial prognosis didn't seem promising after it seemed he might be sidelined six to seven months, but it appears that he's pushing to be out there when the Patriots take the field in the season opener.

Hightower took part in a local football camp in Lowell, Mass on Monday and told ESPN's Joe McDonald that he's making progress and so far, everything is going well with his rehabilitation.

"Honestly, I don't have a target date," said Hightower. "I've seen doc, and everything is going great right now. I'm right on track, if not a little ahead of schedule. It's something that's going to take time. I can't say 'three weeks' or whatever. It feels great. I'm doing good. Doc loved everything. He said I'm ahead of schedule, so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing."

That's good news considering how valuable he is to New England's defense.  Hightower finished tied for second with Chandler Jones in sacks with six during the regular season in 2014 and also combined for 89 tackles (also second on the team behind Jamie Collins' 115), 13 quarterback hits (2nd behind Rob Ninkovich's 16), two passes defensed, and a forced fumble.

In the playoffs he finished second in tackles with 16, as well as a team-leading two tackles for a loss.

For now he'll have to take it one week at a time, but there's still plenty of time before the season starts.  At this point his road back seems to be going according to plan and if that continues, Hightower hopes he'll be out there.

"Oh, hell yeah, I wanna play in the first game," said Hightower.  "I wish we could go out and start in a couple of weeks and bang around. It's just something that takes time. It's going great."