BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots are about to get back their defensive captain and signal-caller. Dont’a Hightower is reportedly going to suit up against the Panthers at Gillette Stadium on Sunday after missing two games with a knee injury.
The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe first reported the news on Friday afternoon. Hightower was a limited participant during Wednesday and Thursday’s practices, in addition to eight others. He played 35 snaps in the season opener before sitting out the last two Patriots games, wins over the Saints and Texans.
New England’s victories in those games, however, were in spite of the defense. Entering Sunday’s game against the Panthers, they have allowed the most points per game (31.7), passing touchdowns (eight), and passing yards (992) in the league. They are also 30th in the league with a 112.9 opposing passer rating.
They haven’t been much better defending the run, either. The Patriots rank 31st in yards per rush allowed (5.1) through three weeks.
Needless to say, Hightower’s return to the lineup will be a welcome one. But as Howe pointed out, he primarily lined up on the edge in the season opener and the Patriots may look to put him back in his traditional signal-calling middle linebacker role. Hightower would be especially important in light of the Panthers’ rushing attack, including veteran back Jonathan Stewart and dynamic rookie first-round pick Christian McCaffrey.
Here’s the complete injury report for Sunday’s game:
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
T Marcus Cannon (ankle/concussion)
LB Dont’a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)
WR Matthew Slater (hamstring)
DB Brandon King (hamstring)
LB Jeremy Cash (calf)
C Ryan Kalil (neck)
CB Caryl Worley (shoulder)
WR Curtis Samuel (back)
DE Daeshon Hall (knee)