FOXBOROUGH — The last time Dont’a Hightower played 16 regular-season games, the selfie was a fresh, new phenomenon.

Yes, it’s been that long.

In fact, with the exception of 2013, the Patriots’ linebacker has never played all 16. The low point came last season when he laced up for five kickoffs before tearing a pectoral muscle. As he recovered from his season-ending injury, Hightower began exploring new methods for recovery and injury prevention.

This offseason he put those into practice.

“Biggest thing I tried (was) to hit those small muscles that I don’t always hit, and try to treat those more in maybe a different rehab routine,” Hightower said Wednesday. “More acupuncture and soft tissue, and things I’ve really been educated on since the injury.”

Having fully recovered from his injury, the 28-year-old was a full go during training camp and preseason this summer. While the Patriots did hold Hightower out of two preseason games, neither absence was tied to an injury concern, but rather his status as the team’s best linebacker. With Hightower’s return, New England’s lackluster defense figures to receive a significant boost this fall.

He rushes well off the edge, can play a sturdy middle linebacker and blitzes as well as any Patriot defender. That is, of course, if he can stay on the field.

“I’ve been back and been rehabbing, and been on the field a lot more and a lot longer. So this offseason feels good,” Hightower said. “I’m just looking forward to that first game and building off of that.”

NEW ENGLAND placed rookie cornerback Duke Dawson – a second-round draft pick – on injured reserve with a hamstring injury and signed wide receiver Riley McCarron from the practice squad.

Dawson has been dealing with a hamstring injury this summer and was the only player who didn’t participate Thursday.

THE PATRIOTS have elected six captains, including two-first timers – Tom Brady, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, David Andrews, Patrick Chung and James White.

Brady, McCourty, Slater and Andrews have reassumed their roles from last season while Chung and White took the places of Dont’a Hightower, Rob Gronkowski and Duron Harmon.

The 31-year-old Chung is entering his ninth year in New England. White is a fifth-year veteran.

NEW ENGLAND signed former Houston tight end Stephen Anderson to the practice squad.

He was at the team walk-through Thursday and will wear No. 80.

Having filled out their practice squad earlier in the week, it was not clear who the Patriots would let go.

Released by the Texans on Aug. 31, the 6-foot-2, 230-pound tight end spent his first two years in Houston. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of California, Anderson caught 11 balls for 93 yards and a touchdown as a rookie in 2016.

Last season he had 25 receptions for 342 yards and a score.

ROOKIE LINEBACKER Ja’Whaun Bentley was upgraded from a limited participant Wednesday to a full one.

Bentley has been listed with an “illness.” Those still limited for New England include tight end Jacob Hollister (hamstring) and running back Sony Michel (knee).

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