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FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2017, file photo, New England Patriots Dont'a Hightower folllows the action during NFL football's Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons in Houston. The draft remains the most significant means by which to build and fortify a franchise. Yet, as the salary cap increases exponentially each year under the 10-year labor agreement reached in 2011, the lure of veterans on the open market can be powerful. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan, File)

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower suffered a knee injury during Thursday’s season opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, according to Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal.

Hightower entered the year looking to build on his first Pro Bowl season from 2016. He has been a productive piece of New England’s defense for a number of years, as he’s capable of rushing the quarterback from the edge or stuffing the middle on rushing plays. He’s also playoff-tested with two Super Bowl rings.

New England can rely on Cassius Marsh, Kyle Van Noy and Marquis Flowers if Hightower is forced to miss extended time. The defending Super Bowl champions would badly miss their veteran leader if Hightower’s injury proves to be serious, though.  

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