For the second time in three years, New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower made one of the biggest plays in a Super Bowl. In 2015, it was tackling Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch just short of the goal line to set up Malcolm Butler’s game-deciding interception. This year, it was forcing a fumble by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, which gave the Patriots the ball in scoring range on their way back from a 25-point third quarter deficit.
The two plays have more in common than just their role in New England’s two world championships – they were also made by a player at less than 100%. Hightower played with a shoulder injury back in Super Bowl XLIX, and due to another shoulder issue was questionable for this year’s game. However, despite struggling with injuries all season long, the defensive captain will not need surgery, according to Jeff Howe:
Good news for Dont'a Hightower. No plans for offseason surgery despite dealing with knee and shoulder issues at times this season.
Hightower, who played all 49 defensive snaps on Sunday against the Falcons, missed three games due to injury this season. With that in mind, the news of him not needing surgery to repair his ailments are definitely encouraging. After all, the 26-year old is about to enter free agency in March and looking to get paid; either by the Patriots or another team.
The Patriots organization will obviously watch Hightower’s injury history and recovery as well. Before making a long-term financial commitment, the team needs to feel safe when it comes to the linebacker’s recent physical issues.