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For Dont’a Hightower, ‘everything is finally coming back into play’

01.07.14 at 3:32 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Dont’a Hightower acknowledged Tuesday that he may have lost his focus earlier in the season, but the second-year linebacker is back to where he needs to be.

After the Patriots lost Jerod Mayo earlier in the year to a season-ending injury, Hightower’s role expanded, and he admitted he tried to do too much to try and make up for the losses in personnel.

“I’ve been there, done that — tried to do too much. It didn’t work for me,” he said Tuesday after practice. “[But I] fell back, and everything is finally coming back into play.”

The key is finding a balance between the Bill Belichick mantra of “Do your job,” and a natural inclination to try and overextend yourself in an attempt to become a playmaker.

Hightower said Tuesday that the solution is simple.

“Do your job. The big plays will come to you if you do your job,” he said. “I don’t need to make a tremendous catch — I just need to do my job. Everybody is lined up and everybody has the right communication, after that, the playmakers will make plays.”

As the Patriots continue their prep work for Saturday’s divisional playoff contest with the Colts, Hightower figures to play a sizable role for New England for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that he’ll be asked to pick up a lot of the slack in the wake of the recent decision to place Brandon Spikes on season-ending injured reserve.

He says he’s ready.

“It’s not just me — everyone has to step up. It is what it is,” he said. “It’s sad to see him go down, but it’s another man up. Everybody will have to step up. Not just at the linebacker spot, but everybody.

“Like we’ve been saying since the first injury, another man up. There’s no point in crying about it. There’s nothing we can do about it now. It’s just get ready with the people that we have.”

At the same time, he added Spikes had a “fire” and a level of “intimidation” that’s hard to replicate.

“He just brings that spark to the defense that a lot of people don’t,” explained Hightower. “A lot of people don’t see what goes on out there on the field, but definitely, that spark. Whenever we need that big play, usually everybody kind of looks to him for that big play. If somebody needs to say something, it’s usually Spikes. It’s not a captain, a 15-year-old vet. It’s usually him.”

Going forward, Hightower says there’s plenty of confidence in the linebackers that remain in the meeting room, a group that is getting help from Mayo, and one that expects to get some assistance from Spikes.

“We’re fine. We still have a lot of confidence in the room,” he said. “We have a lot of young guys in there who learn pretty well and we have some older guys who know what’s going on. I think we’ll be fine.

“You still learn — you can’t stop learning, especially from an older guy who has had so much success. But their role doesn’t really change. It’s not necessarily on the field, but off the field,” Hightower said of Mayo and Spikes. “They’re still there giving us hints and letting us know what we do at practice sometimes — they have a better perspective on what we do. But other than that, I don’t feel like things and going to change.”

Read More: Brandon Spikes, Dont'a Hightower, Jerod Mayo,
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