Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports

Dont'a Hightower (shoulder) admits he's not 100 percent, but is happy to be back on field

Ryan Hannable
May 31, 2018 - 3:11 pm

FOXBORO -- After needing season-ending shoulder surgery last October, it's been awhile since linebacker Dont'a Hightower has been spotted on the field.

Hightower has participated in several OTAs so far this spring (thanks to photos), but just not at the one the media attended last week. That changed Thursday, as the linebacker was on the field with the rest of his teammates.

"It feels good," he said. "It’s been a while. It feels good to get my feet wet, get my feet back under me. It feels good to be out there with my teammates, new and old. Just ready to keep moving forward and getting better."

Although he was a full participant, he admitted he isn't yet 100 percent.

"I mean, I’m still working," Hightower said. "You know, I’m not going to say I’m 100 percent, but I feel good, no problems. So, I’m going to stay with Jimbo [Jim Whalen] and Flo [Brian Flores] and just stay on what I’m doing right now and hopefully just keep moving forward."

"I don’t have any numbers, percentages – none of that," he added. "I just know that I feel great right now, I’m moving around, I’m not having any problems. I mean, I won’t know how I really feel until we get pads on. I mean, 7-on-7 is for receivers and DBs, and that’s not my thing. So, I won’t know until I get the pads on."

The Alabama product was also asked about Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski not being present at the voluntary OTA sessions, but he said everything remains the same -- everyone is going to continue to work and get better.

"As far as work goes, it’s honestly the same, man," he said. "Twelve’s [Tom Brady] a big part of this team and he means a lot to us in the locker room, but as far as the culture goes, it’s always been next man up. Whether it’s 12, or Gronk [Rob Gronkowski], or me missing, or whenever [Jerod] Mayo went down, or [Vince] Wilfork or whatever, it’s always been next man up. That’s the kind of way Bill [Belichick] has built this culture is whenever the next guy is up they’re just looking for that next chance and opportunity. Guys come in and we work hard every day.

"We’re not going to work harder just because 12’s not here or because Gronk’s not here. Dwayne Allen’s doing a great job. [Will] Tye’s doing a great job. [Troy] Niklas is doing a great job. All of these guys are getting those extra reps and getting better and wanting to contribute to this team. Honestly, it hasn’t changed. I feel like everybody comes in, we’re all doing our workouts, we’re all doing our film and we’re not missing any meeting time. Whenever he gets back, we’ll be glad to have them both, but it’s not going to stop us from working."