BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots’ defense has their captain back.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower was activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list and returned to the practice field at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday.

Hightower is entering his sixth season in New England after signing a four-year contract with the team over the offseason. He’s played all 16 games just once in his career, but is one of the team’s defensive leaders on the field and in the locker room. He’s racked up 372 combined tackles and 17 sacks since being the 25th overall pick out of Alabama in 2012, playing a key role for the Patriots in two Super Bowl victories.

The 27-year-old had been sidelined with an undisclosed knee injury, but it appears he’ll be ready to go when the regular season opens up on September 7.

Also returning to the field on Tuesday was starting left tackle Nate Solder, who was in full pads for the media portion of the session.


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