When the Patriots traded linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns after their bye week in November, it sent shock waves through the NFL.
“It sucked,” Patriots inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower told WEEI when asked how he felt about the trade.
That’s about as far off the reservation as any Patriots player or coach is going to get in dealing with the media.
Before that, when asked who his favorite NFL defensive player is, he said it was Collins.
“It’s part of the business and we’ve kind of moved on from it. Obviously he’s doing a good job. He got his contract extended and everything. Everything is going well for him and I obviously wish him the best. We’re here now.”
Hightower said that the Patriots’ defense needed a few weeks to adjust after Collins’ departure, which came in Week 9 during their bye. The Patriots lost 31-24 at home to the Seahawks, allowing 420 yards of offense, in Week 10 and needed a touchdown in the final two minutes to beat the Jets two weeks later.
Over the last five games, however, the Patriots have allowed a total of 53 points.
Part of the reason they traded Collins for a compensatory third-round draft pick is because they couldn’t reach an agreement with him on a contract extension. Collins made the Pro Bowl in 2015, but that didn’t matter to the Patriots in 2016. That lack of sentimentality is one of the reasons they’ve been able to sustain their success for so long.
Still, moves like that can be an emotional punch to the gut in the short term for the players.