Hightower's versatility to be tested at training camp


Hightower's versatility to be tested at training camp

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower's versatility at the linebacker position is just one of the reasons the New England Patriots drafted him 25th overall in this year's NFL Draft. But putting that versatility into action at the NFL level can sometimes be more difficult than you think, even for Bill Belichick.

Coming from Alabama, Hightower played primarily on the inside, but he also played some outside linebacker, along with some defensive end in some of Alabama's nickel and four-man line sets.

Needless to say, he can adjust to what the team needs.

He's had flexibility in college, in a good program, at a high level of competition," said Belichick on Friday before the team's second day of training camp at Gillette Stadium. "He's a smart guy who works hard. He's got some different skills. We'll see how that will play out."

But how that plays out may also depend on how Belichick handles Hightower's situation, as early as the team's current training camp workouts.

It's a situation that even he may have to work with on the fly.

"If we wait too long to move him, or to try something else, then you're too far behind, as far as workouts," said Belichick. "If you throw it all in there at once, sometimes that can be overwhelming, and then you don't get one thing right. That's a good question, you try to find that balance.

"You take it at a pace that you think the player can handle. Sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong. You have to adjust . . . But until you work with a guy, and you're trying to do something like that with him, you've got to try and figure it out on the run sometimes, and that's pretty challenging."

With that said, and the challenge Belichick may face, the concern level isn't too great, as he knows Hightower's football smarts are above average.

"But he's a smart kid, and he definitely understands football and football concepts," said Belichick. "That comes very quickly to him, so that's good. Even though he might not know exactly what every part of his assignment is. He's spacial, he knows where he's playing, who's next to him, he can figure out how he's supposed to fit things, just instinctually, it comes to him. So that can cover up for maybe not knowing exactly, precisely what the exact assignment is, but just kind of being able to figure it out."