Hightower & rushing off the edge

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There was somewhat of an unfamiliar face spotted during 1-on-1 pass rushing drills at Patriots practice on Sunday morning, as linebacker Dont'a Hightower earned reps as an edge rusher.

Hightower was not used in such a role during his rookie season, though it's something we saw from him during his time at the University of Alabama, where his versatility made him one of the most sought after linebackers during the 2012 draft.

Whether or not the Patriots will use Hightower as a rusher in game action remains to be seen, but the second-year player is willing to take on any role his coaches ask of him.

"I love being versatile, anything you can do can help," he said when speaking of the pass-rushing drills. "I like getting after the quarterback, not just as a linebacker, but as a defensive end as well. Whatever I can do, if I can come in and get a couple of rushes every now and then, whatever Coach Belichick asks me to do."

Despite the fact that Hightower had limited reps as a rusher last season (he did manage four sacks as a rookie), he said that rushing the passer isn't a skill that a player forgets.

"For me, I'm not great at pass rushing, but I'm confident in myself and I feel like it's kind of like riding a bike," he said. "Once you learn how to ride a bike you don't forget."

One area that the 23-year old excelled in as a rookie was defending the run, particularly runs between the tackles. While the Patriots didn't work extensively on inside runs on Sunday, Hightower is already relishing the opportunity to do so in the near future.

"Inside runs is what I'm looking forward to. Outside runs, a little too much running out there," he said with a smile. "I love inside. I love the guards, the tackles, fullbacks, all the other stuff. Hopefully I'll get a little bit more action there tomorrow."