New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower is returning to football after opting out of the 2020 NFL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Amid speculation that he was considering retirement, the former University of Alabama consensus All-American confirmed that he's committed to football, so much so that he refused to slack during his time away, specifically avoiding the temptations of doughnuts and beer.
“Just like riding a bike, if it’s been too long, it’ll take a little time,” Hightower said of his workouts away from the team during the Patriots' virtual press conference on Monday (June 15). “I was watching film and trying to keep up with the guys throughout the season and stuff like that. I was aware of being away too long, but again whenever the opt-out came, that was never my intention. But I’d be naïve to think that if I didn’t do anything that I would enjoy my time at home and fall too far out of shape and then whenever it comes time to actually get out and run, I’m looking around like, ‘Nah, I think I’m going to eat these doughnuts and drink these beers and stuff.’
“But it was great. I enjoyed my time at home with my son and my wife, and I’m glad to be back to work.”
Hightower, 31, acknowledging that his decision to step away during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic was "what I thought was the betterment of my family" and that he "would absolutely do it again," but reiterated that he is dedicated to playing football again in 2021.
“I don’t know what y’all want me to say,” Hightower responded when questioned about his commitment to football. “I’m here. I’m working. I’m in minicamp. But I’m not here to write a story for you, dog; I’m here to work. I’m here. I don’t know what else y’all need me to say. If I wasn’t here, then I think that would probably be something to talk about. But I’m here, so, hopefully, that knocks all those questions out.”
Hightower was selected by the Patriots at No. 25 overall in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft following a collegiate career at Alabama that included winning two BCS national championships.
The 31-year-old continued that success in the NFL, winning three Super Bowls, earning two Pro Bowl appearances and being named to the Patriots' 2010s All-Decade Team.