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Dont’a Hightower: It’ll be ‘real fun’ being a part of this group of linebackers

05.01.14 at 4:11 pm ET

FOXBORO — There have been a lot of changes at linebacker for the Patriots to this point in the offseason. Dane Fletcher and Brandon Spikes have departed via free agency, while linebacker coach Pepper Johnson left for a new challenge in Buffalo. Meanwhile, the team awaits the return of veteran Jerod Mayo, who was out for the bulk of the 2013 season because of a torn pectoral muscle

But Dont’a Hightower said Thursday that even with all the changes, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the state of the linebacker group in New England heading into a new year. The return of Mayo and the emergence of Jamie Collins — as well as his own strong finish in 2013 — all bode well for 2014, according to Hightower.

“Definitely with those guys — myself, Mayo, a longtime vet, and Jamie Collins coming up and playing the way he did last year, he definitely stepped up,” Hightower said. “I feel like that’€™s another thing that’€™s going to be real fun this year, having that linebacking corps right there. We have guys in that room who can also step up and play much like Dane did, but I feel like it’€™s going to be real fun with those three.

“Spikes was a big heart on the defense. (He) played with a lot of emotion,” Hightower said. “Dane was a great special teams guy as well as a guy to come in and play as well as he did. He did a great job. But we’€™re building right now. We’€™re all kind of getting back to what we’€™re doing, watching a little film, talking about things. I think it will be interesting to see how things (unfold). As a unit, we’€™ve been watching a lot of film together, learning the basic stuff right now so we’€™re not coming in to OTAs with too much on our plate. We’€™re teaching some of the younger guys and getting in with that.”

Hightower also pointed out that youngsters Steve Beauharnais, Ja’Gared Davis and Chris White are working hard, but has been particularly impressed by the work of Mayo.

“Working out now with him, he looks great,” Hightower said. “He’€™s a hard worker, always been a hard worker, always going to do what’€™s best for the team and what’€™s best for himself. I’€™m not sure how long he’€™s been up here or what he’€™s been doing, but he looks great.”

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



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