Patriots Lose Dont'a Hightower for the Season

New England Patriots Dont'a Hightower #54 sacks and forces a fumble against the Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan #2 at Super Bowl 51 on Sunday

The 6-foot-3, 265-pound Hightower reportedly tore a pectoral muscle, according to reports from NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport.

The New England Patriots' defense has been a major liability this season, and it looks like the situation is about to get worse. Hightower made 13 starts last season, accounting for 65 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks and two passes defensed. "He's one of the captains on the team". "He knows this defense like the back of his hand".

"But as a linebacker group, we're here to step up and try to fill his place, which is going to be tough to do".

Without Hightower, the Pats are left with Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, David Harris, Cassius Marsh, and Marquis Flowers at linebacker.

Hightower has dealt with injuries over the course of his career as he's only played in all 16 regular season games once, in 2013.

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Hightower's absence also will be felt on the edge, where the Patriots lack depth.

Any hope Dont'a Hightower would return this season is now gone.

The Patriots will face the Los Angeles Chargers in Gillette Stadium this Sunday before enjoying their bye in Week 9. Stay positive for Dont'a. Hightower has made it through 16 games in a season just once with the Patriots (2013), and he was on New England's Active/PUP list for almost all of training camp this season.

"He's a huge part of what we do", safety Devin McCourty said. That might not be enough for Sunday's game, especially considering that Guy is managing a chest injury that has limited his participation in practice, and Branch's stamina to handle an increased workload is an unknown this year.

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