BOSTON (CBS) — Dont’a Hightower is back in Foxboro.

The veteran linebacker, who opted out of last season due to COVID, was present for Thursday’s training session at Gillette Stadium.

The team shared photos from Thursday’s session that showed Hightower arriving for work.

Some speculation about Hightower’s playing future had swirled in recent months. A three-time team captain and three-time Super Bowl champion, Hightower’s spot on the team was questioned by Peter King, in a comment that helped fan the flames of retirement speculation. The fact that five of the other seven players who opted out last year are no longer with the team helped advance that story line a bit.

But after getting married in May, Hightower has arrived in Foxboro with plenty of time to spare before mandatory minicamp begins next week.

In 2019, Hightower started 15 games in the middle of the NFL’s No. 1 defense. He recorded 71 tackles, and 5.5 sacks for New England that year.

The Patriots had several notable absences from early OTA sessions, but players have been steadily trickling back in to town in recent weeks. Staff