FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Dont’a Hightower is clearly thrilled to be back on the field after the frustration of having to sit and watch most of last season on the sideline.

After making one of the biggest sacks in New England franchise history when he separated Atlanta’s Matt Ryan from the football during New England’s Super Bowl comeback in February 2017, Hightower – who had missed three games the previous season with a knee problem – was lost five games into the 2017 schedule with a torn pectoral muscle. Coincidentally, he was hurt against the Falcons.

His absence, felt deeply by a team that came up short defensively in the Super Bowl, wasn’t easy for Hightower to handle – even if it’s something he had gotten used to.

“Absolutely,” the linebacker and defensive captain said Wednesday, following the second day of the Patriots’ mandatory minicamp outside Gillette Stadium. “Being out last year and even a little bit more the year before that, it just feels good to be out here and be able to communicate, go through the worst part and embracing the (camp stuff), as they say, with my teammates.”

Hightower, 28, has failed to play a full schedule in any of his six years in the NFL. In fact, he has missed 24 of a possible 96 regular-season games since becoming a pro in 2012.

“It just (stinks) not being out there,” he said. “I know in my career in the league I’ve missed a lot of games. It’s definitely not anticipated and it’s not something I look forward to doing or want to do. But it’s part of it.

“Just not being out there during the regular season, let alone the playoffs, it (stinks) and it hurts.”

During his downtime, he said, “I just do what I can, whether it’s talking to (media), or going out to dinner and talking about some stuff.”

EAGLES: Players and officials made individual decisions to not go to the White House for a scheduled celebration of their Super Bowl title, leaving two players actually planning to make the trip to Washington before the visit was canceled by President Donald Trump, according to players and a person familiar with the arrangements.

All-Pro center Jason Kelce said players filled out forms anonymously indicating whether they wanted to go to the White House, not make the trip or go to Washington and do something else.

“It’s a little bit disappointing as a country right now that we’re so divided, I think that’s the bigger disappointment,” said Kelce.

The players did not urge a collective decision on what to do as a team, giving each player his own option.

Defensive end Chris Long, who skipped the trip last year when he was with the New England Patriots and again decided early to not attend, said he hopes athletes on championship teams in all sports won’t have to make the decision when Trump’s term is up for re-election in 2020.

“The players didn’t create this division (in the country),” Long said. “I’m extremely proud to be part of this team.”

RAVENS: Baltimore has been fined by the NFL and forced to forfeit two days of practice this week for violating offseason workout rules.

The NFL cited the team for pass coverage contact during earlier Offseason Team Activity sessions, according to Coach John Harbaugh, who was also fined by the league.

For violating the rules of the collective bargaining agreement, the Ravens must cancel their scheduled OTA workouts on Thursday and Friday.

JETS: The Jets signed veteran safety J.J. Wilcox for depth after special teams standout Rontez Miles had surgery to repair a torn meniscus.