Dont’a Hightower Injury: Believed to be Sprained MCL


It is not receiving the most attention, but the Dont’a Hightower injury can be a massive loss for the Patriots. Here is the latest.

The story from Sunday night had a little to do with the Denver Broncos knocking off the previously undefeated New England Patriots, but the major story was the seemingly devastating knee injury to Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski late in the fourth quarter.

Reports suggest that Gronkowski will be alright, but his health is dominating the headline, and for good reason. He is the most important player on the Patriots’ roster this side of Tom Brady.

However, Gronkowski was not the only huge injury news for the Patriots on Sunday night, as star linebacker Dont’a Hightower left the game late in the first half with an apparent knee injury. He never returned to the field.

Hightower is one of the best players on the Patriots’ defense, and one of the best linebackers in the entire NFL. His loss was immediately felt by New England, particularly in the running game as noted by Kevin Duffy of MassLive:

"Broncos rushing stats before Hightower injury: 15 carries, 43 yards. Broncos after Hightower injury: 17 carries, 136 yards, 3 TD."

Hightower is the leader of the Patriots’ defense and plays a key role in defending the pass, and as you can see by the numbers, containing the running game. The Patriots’ defense could not even remotely slow down the Broncos’ rushing attack after Hightower left the game, and that was a huge reason for their loss.

If the Hightower injury turns out to be serious, the Patriots’ defense will clearly be in trouble. Hightower’s importance to the defense is similar (not exactly the same) to Gronkowski’s importance to the Patriots’ offense. A league-best unit will likely quickly become above-average at best without their star linebacker.

However, we do have some good news. According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, Hightower’s knee injury is not believed to be overly serious.

Considering the circumstances, an MCL sprain is about the best you can hope for. If the tests back up the Patriots’ belief on Hightower’s knee, he would likely only miss a few games. Hightower would likely be able to be back for the end of the regular season, and get back into game shape for the playoffs.

Hopefully, the MRI shows more of the same. The Patriots should be able to get by without Hightower in the short-term, as fellow-linebacker Jamie Collins is expected to be back from his relatively mysterious illness soon. Getting Collins back would certainly help with the loss of Hightower, as the combination of Jonathan Freeny and Jerod Mayo simply could not get the job done on Sunday night.

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With the undefeated dreams over, Hightower needs to work on getting ready for when the Patriots need him the most, the post season. A healthy combination of Hightower and Collins combines for the best linebacker duo in the entire NFL. Having them in full force for the post season would undoubtedly give the Patriots a Super Bowl caliber defense.