BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots defense will need to play the rest of 2017 without their defensive captain. Dont’a Hightower is reportedly out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport first reported the news of Hightower’s season-ending injury via Twitter on Thursday. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe first reported on Wednesday that Hightower is dealing with a right shoulder injury.
NBC Sports Boston’s Mike Giardi added on Thursday that Hightower also injured his right pectoral muscle, but the severity was not known until Rapoport’s confirmation.
Hightower had played in four straight games after missing Weeks 2-3 with a knee ailment. The season-ending pectoral injury will mark 22 games missed for Hightower since the start of the 2014 season. However, he had never missed a playoff game over his first five years in the NFL.
The loss of Hightower is a massive one for a Patriots defense that is allowing the 11th-most points per game (23.7) in the NFL through seven weeks. Kyle Van Noy had mostly taken his place as the middle linebacker and primary communicator on the field, so that’s not likely to change. But Hightower’s presence on the edge and ability to pressure quarterbacks will certainly be difficult to replace.
UPDATE: Rapoport gave an update on Hightower on Thursday afternoon, confirming that he had surgery to repair his torn pectoral muscle. He is expected to have a full recovery for the 2018 season.