In 2020, the New England Patriots had a league-high eight players opt out due to concerns about COVID-19. Dont’a Hightower was the highest-profile player in that group, and quite frankly, he’s the guy the Patriots missed the most last season when they fell to 26th in the league in run defense.
Hightower has returned and he is still trying to work his way back into shape, seemingly more mentally than physically. Hightower wasn’t happy with his performance in Week 1, but during a presser this week, the former Pro-Bowler and three-time Super Bowl champion felt he played better in the win over the New York Jets.
While he might be playing better, he’s still hating a necessary evil that comes with the long football season, and that’s the meetings.
Hightower Calls Meetings ‘the Worst Part of Coming Back to Football’
Consider Hightower an all-action, low-talking kind of guy. He admitted to the press on Wednesday that team meetings are his least favorite part of the sport. Hightower was asked about the most difficult aspect of his return to the NFL. He said:
getting back to these meetings. In all honesty, that’s probably the big takeaway from having a lot of liberation (in 2020) and kind of going about how I wanted to, and then just a lot of meetings. That is no lie. The meetings is the worst part of coming back to football. Not camp, not running, just the meetings. Getting back used to that.
Some might use this as fuel to criticize Hightower. From another perspective, the candor is a bit refreshing as many people–including students across the country–are struggling with a return to the regular work or school day.
Hightower is in a much different situation than students and most Americans with more traditional jobs, but the psychology associated with attending the mandatory events of a job or duty can weigh on a person after an extended period of liberation.
It’s especially the case when that period of liberation also came with stressful components caused by a global pandemic.
How the Patriots’ Run Defense Looked Vulnerable in Week 2
In some ways, the Patriots’ defense looked strong in the 25-6 Week 2 win over the Jets. In others, there were some real problems.
While the Patriots’ pass rush and secondary worked in tandem to help harass Jets rookie quarterback Zach Wilson into four interceptions, the run defense was gashed on the ground.
The Jets picked up 152 yards on 31 carries against the Patriots. That total included 59 impressive yards on the ground from the Jets’ explosive and underrated back Michael Carter. He looked like a certified problem every time he touched the ball. Hightower may be improving, which is good, because had the Patriots been facing a quarterback taking better care of the ball, they might have been in trouble.
In most weeks, a team that gives up 152 yards on the ground will score more than 6 points. Don’t look for the New Orleans Saints to let the Patriots off so easy if Alvin Kamara and Co. find it as easy to eat up yardage on the ground in Week 3.
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