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Injury update: Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower is “ahead of schedule”

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The linebacker won’t be back in 2017, but he should be in good shape for 2018.

Atlanta Falcons v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New England Patriots miss captain and linebacker Dont’a Hightower in the heart of their defense and he won’t be back this season. But in an event at Gillette Stadium on Monday, Hightower provided an update on his recovery to WEEI.

"I feel great," he said. "I can’t complain where I am at. I am ahead of schedule. Just doing what doc asks me to do. Just grinding and looking forward to getting back next year.”

Hightower suffered a shoulder injury and required season-ending surgery to fix the problem. He has remained a part of the Patriots by speaking with his teammates and supporting everyone from afar.

“[Injuries are a] part of football and the whole next man up mantra that we kind of have installed in and fell in love with the past couple of years, that is what it is," Hightower explained. "Guys have stepped up and done just that. I am more excited than they are when they are making plays...They are out there having fun and making plays so I couldn’t be happier for them.”

The Patriots missed Hightower on Monday against the Miami Dolphins, but Kyle Van Noy had been doing a pretty good job in his place for much of the season. Hopefully Hightower can make a full recovery and he can team with Van Noy to form a great and versatile linebacker combo for years to come.