Dont'a Hightower happy for time to heal

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When the New England Patriots play their next game in the AFC Divisional Round of the playoffs, linebacker Dont'a Hightower will have gone three weeks without playing a game.

“When you’ve been playing football this long, if you take three weeks off or a month off, it’s still football at the end of the day,” Hightower said.

Hightower has been battling a right shoulder injury throughout December that held him out of the season finale against the Bills.

“It’s football,” Hightower said. “Everybody gets injured. I’m injured. But, it’s football. I’m going to play through it. It is what it is.”

Hightower said the Patriots will take advantage of every aspect of the bye week -- getting healthy and working on execution.

“I’m one of the first ones to admit [it’s nice to heal up],” Hightower said. “It’s good that we have a slower pace and understand some things and let some guys get healed up. We are definitely taking advantage of it all the way around.”

A few sound bites from Hightower:

On Jamie Collins emergence. “I’m definitely not surprised. [Jamie] is definitely a gifted athlete and I definitely like the experience he had coming in as a rookie, playing as a rookie, he only set the bar high for himself. Jamie is not one to gloat about himself. He’s a quiet type of dude. But, when it comes to work and practice every day, he does the same thing in practice. That’s definitely an example of practice how you play."

On feeling more comfortable this season. “I think so. I have lot of guys around me that help to make me feel a lot more comfortable. So it’s a lot easier this year.”

Labeling LB coach Pat Graham as a “nerd”. Well, he’s definitely a nerd. When I say a nerd, he went to Yale, so a big nerd. It’s great. He learns from us and we’ve learned from him.”

Hightower called himself a nerd, too. “I was always one to talk, trying to be a nerd about things. Pat Graham has done a better job than what we did last year as far as talking about situational things.”

Being a nerd isn’t a bad thing. “It definitely is not [bad]. But, you don’t want to throw that nerd bomb around here too much.”

Alabama vs. Ohio State playoff game. “I’m definitely going to catch that one. Me and Nate [Ebner] have talked. We haven’t set it yet. But I’m sure we will come up with something good.”