No longer a rookie, Patriots’ Hightower focusing on the little things

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Dont’a Hightower isn’t far removed from his rookie season, but the second-year Patriots linebacker is enjoying the perks of being a veteran.

“It feels pretty good, not having to go get the water bottles or having to put the equipment up or do little things like that,” Hightower said Thursday at Gillette Stadium. “But it also feels good to have some of the other guys look up to me.

“I know I’m just a second-year guy, but I feel like I know the ropes a little bit better at this point as opposed to my rookie year.”

One of New England’s two first-round draft picks, the former Alabama standout played in 14 games last season, starting all but one. The coaching staff credited him with 75 tackles and four sacks.

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