“All them rumors about retirement and things, y’all experienced me contemplating anyone was attempting to kick me out,” Hightower joked following New England’s next minicamp practice. “[The opt-out] was pretty much just for the season. I was not scheduling just one or two techniques forward or something like that.”

The Patriots now have lost safety (and fellow 2020 decide-out) Patrick Chung and huge receiver Julian Edelman to retirement this offseason. Hightower has available no signs he will before long follow in their footsteps.

Questioned explicitly about no matter if he intends to engage in this time, Hightower quipped, “I wouldn’t be out listed here carrying out this for free.”

Questioned after far more about his commitment, Hightower, yet again, pointed to his attendance as a solid indication of his programs.

“I do not know what y’all want me to say, man,” he reported. “I’m here. I’m doing the job. I’m in minicamp, bro. I’m not listed here to compose a story for you, puppy. I’m here to get the job done, man. I’m right here. I really don’t know what else y’all have to have me to say. If I was not listed here, then I think that would be one thing to speak about. But I’m listed here. With any luck ,, that knocks all these issues out.”

By two times of mandatory minicamp, Hightower’s presence is challenging to miss. Throughout Tuesday’s 11-on-11 drills, he leaped to intercept rookie Mac Jones on a short move about the center. The decide delighted the users of the protection, some of whom started yelling “Boom!” — Hightower’s nickname — as portion of their celebratory cheers.

Times later, when linebacker Kyle Van Noy picked off a further go from Jones, Hightower was appropriate there to hug his teammate. And any time he’s not actively taking part in a drill, the 31-yr-outdated veteran is generally chatting with coaches Monthly bill Belichick and Matt Patricia, or with younger players, these types of as next-12 months security Kyle Dugger.

“Having him again in the making, back out there making plays, I believe it presents most people a elevate,” reported protection Devin McCourty. “It’s been great to have him back again.”

After opting out for the 2020 year, Dont’a Hightower is back on the subject.Jim Davis/Globe Personnel

Additional Belichick: “High’s worked appropriate in very speedily. He’s naturally a wise participant with a large amount of practical experience and has a lot of leadership power on the workforce.”

Coming into his ninth NFL period, Hightower rejoins New England’s revamped pass rush with Van Noy and defensive conclude Matthew Judon. Next-year linebacker Josh Uche and 3rd-12 months defensive end Chase Winovich could also perform important roles.

Hightower noted he hopes to guide by illustration and serve as a resource for youthful teammates.

“You’re only as solid as the weakest hyperlink,” he claimed. “I really do not want to preserve any tricks to myself, as much as getting care of my physique or how I diagnose performs or what my timetable is or whichever. Any time it comes to a younger guy, I’m primarily right here to support.”

In 15 games in 2019, Hightower logged 71 tackles, which includes eight for a reduction and 5.5 sacks. Only Jamie Collins completed the 12 months with more tackles, with 81. Hightower also rated next on the group in quarterback hits, with 13.

Throughout his year absent, when he was not paying time with his spouse and children, Hightower nevertheless stayed lively, functioning out, seeing film, and retaining in contact with his teammates.

“I adore my spouse, and I love my son, but I’m very guaranteed that she was all set for me to get back out here, way too,” he claimed. “Talking football into her ear and her head. I’m happy to be again, glad to be close to all the guys.”


Nicole Yang can be attained at [email protected]