Patriots LB Dont'a Hightower progressing with shoulder rehab

LOWELL, Mass. -- New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower said he's ahead of schedule with the rehab on his surgically repaired shoulder and wants to be ready for the season opener Sept. 10.

Hightower had surgery in February and the original diagnosis was that he'd be sidelined six to seven months. Hightower, who spent Monday speaking with campers at the Sports International Football Academy at UMass-Lowell, said he still doesn't have an exact timeline when he'll be cleared to return, but everything is going well.

"Honestly, I don't have a target date," he said. "I've seen doc, and everything is going great right now. I'm right on track, if not a little ahead of schedule. It's something that's going to take time. I can't say 'three weeks' or whatever. It feels great. I'm doing good. Doc loved everything. He said I'm ahead of schedule, so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing."

When asked if he will be ready for the start of the regular season, Hightower said: "Oh, hell yeah, I wanna play in the first game. I wish we could go out and start in a couple of weeks and bang around. It's just something that takes time. It's going great."

While the rest of his teammate recently participated in the team's minicamp, Hightower was progressing with his rehab.

"I felt like I was working just as hard, if not harder, than them, trying to keep up with those guys," Hightower said. "They're ahead of me, so all I've been doing is running and doing the lifting that I can, and now I've been able to bump up the bar. I'm still playing catch-up, but I missed it."

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said his decision on Tom Brady's suspension appeal could come as early as this week. Hightower is hoping for a better result.

"Obviously, I would rather him not be suspended," Hightower said. "It's out of my hands and it's way out of my pay grade. We're just sitting and waiting, I guess."