Patriots Hightower Football

Dont’a Hightower, who won three Super Bowls with the Patriots during his nine-year career, will join former teammate Jerod Mayo’s staff as New England’s linebackers coach. Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Former Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower is returning to New England as the Patriots’ new linebackers coach, his agency announced Friday.

Hightower follows in the footsteps of his former teammate and coach, Jerod Mayo, who returned to the organization five years ago as an assistant. As the Patriots’ new head coach, Mayo has completed his defensive staff by hiring Hightower to the last position coach vacancy on that side of the ball.

Hightower, 33, retired after the 2021 season and has been out of football ever since. He spent the last two years of his career with Mayo as his position coach, and played with his boss from 2012-2015. Mayo spoke about recruiting Hightower to his staff last April, when asked about Hightower’s recent retirement and the possibility of becoming a head coach one day.

“I think Hightower would be a phenomenal coach,” Mayo told reporters. “So we’ll see. When I get a chance to run my own ship, I’ll try to recruit him.”

Hightower won three Super Bowls and made two Pro Bowls during his nine-year NFL career. He entered the league as a first-round pick out of Alabama in 2012, started as a rookie and played inside and outside linebacker for the Patriots. Hightower was a force against the run and as a pass rusher. Over his career, Hightower played in 117 regular-season games and totaled 569 tackles, 27 sacks, 67 QB hits, an interception, two forced fumbles and a safety.

“High and I have always had a great relationship. I was older. He was like a young pup,” Mayo said. “But he was very smart. He was very athletic. I got a chance to play beside him. I got a chance to coach him. There aren’t many people like Hightower in terms of just his smarts.”


Hightower joins DeMarcus Covington (defensive coordinator), Jerry Montgomery (defensive line), Brian Belichick (safeties) and Mike Pellegrino on the Patriots’ defensive staff. It’s possible Mayo will continue to add more coaches, with the Patriots employing two linebackers coaches in recent years.

FALCONS: Owner Arthur Blank made clear that Raheem Morris was the organization’s top selection to be the head coach.

“It was never (offered to Bill Belichick), capital N-E-V-E-R. Bill would tell you this, I would tell you this,” Blank said on a virtual call. “My dogs who were probably listening during the second meeting would say the same thing. He was never offered the job.”

Morris accepted the job Jan. 25 and was introduced as the new coach Feb. 5, 11 days later.

Belichick, Morris and Ejiro Evero were the only candidates interviewed twice for the job of head coach, which was vacant after Arthur Smith was fired. The Falcons interviewed 14 candidates.

CHIEFS: Kansas City ruled out All-Pro left guard Joe Thuney for the Super Bowl because of a pectoral injury he sustained in the divisional round of the playoffs.


Nick Allegretti will start in Thuney’s place against 49ers.

Chiefs Coach Andy Reid insisted all week he wasn’t counting Thuney out, but Thuney had not practiced since before he was hurt in Buffalo.

SEAHAWKS: Seattle is expected to hire Aden Durde as the defensive coordinator for new coach Mike Macdonald, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press.

Durde has been the defensive line coach for the Dallas Cowboys since 2011, but he won’t have a chance at calling plays by coming to Seattle. Macdonald, who made his name as one of the top defensive minds in the game, said he plans to continue calling plays for the defense in Seattle at least initially.

SCHEDULE: The NFL is headed to Spain in 2025 for the first regular-season game ever in that country as the league announced that its international slate of games for the 2025 season will feature a game at Real Madrid’s iconic Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

The teams that will play in that game will be announced at a later date but O’Reilly said the host team would likely be an AFC team because teams in that conference will have an extra home game that season.

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