The New England Patriots learned Thursday they would be without star linebacker Dont'a Hightower for the rest of the 2017 National Football League season - a massive hit to a team that has its sights set on a second consecutive Super Bowl title.
Hightower has a long history with injuries, and has played just one complete season. Trey Flowers (435 snaps) has been New England's most consistent edge presence this season.
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Although the former New York Jets star has made 100 or more tackles in a season on six occasions, he is now 33 years of age and has just four tackles thus far in 2017. Beginning with a sprained right knee, he missed weeks two and three.
Hightower was injured Sunday night while making a tackle in the third quarter of the Patriots' 23-7 win over the Atlanta Falcons. However, he proved resilient and came back stronger than before. The surgery will be for a torn pectoral muscle, the person told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, because it has not yet been announced by the team. He only missed two regular-season games down the stretch while rehabbing the injury.
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He did not practice on Wednesday, the team said. Kyle Van Noy will be asked to step up into Hightower's role, and hopefully, Shea McClellin will be back soon as well. However, Roberts will be battling an ankle injury of his own. He has moved around on the defense this season, as the Patriots have used him at both inside and outside linebacker.
To do so, they'll have to beat the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday in Gillette Stadium in the last game before their bye week.
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