Patriots captains as voted on by team today & told to team after practice: Rob Gronkowski, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Dont'a Hightower.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 6, 2016
There you have it, your 2016-2017 New England Patriot team captains.
Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater are more than familiar with this honor. Since being voted captain in 2011, neither of them have relinquished the title, a testament to their work as leaders both on and off the field.
For Dont’a Hightower and Rob Gronkowski, this is just the beginning.
Despite already exemplifying the Patriot Way, the title of captain has never been bestowed upon either Hightower or Gronkowski. This year is different, though. This year, they received the majority vote from their peers, confirming their role as team leaders.
Fortunately, they’re both more than deserving.
As a member of the Patriots, Hightower has never been terribly outspoken. Instead, he has let his relentlessness, both on and off the field, speak for him.
In 2014 and 2015, Dont’a Hightower only played twelve games.
In spite of that, it’s been the two previous seasons in which we’ve seen the most from him. He’s had to battle injuries. But his fire-like desire to get back on the field has been undeniable. Each year he’s been hurt, there’s been no questions regarding his toughness. Everyone knows how badly he wants to be out there on that field.
And it’s pivotal he’s on the field. Since being drafted in 2012, he’s recorded 43, 65, 61, and 51 tackles. He is a prolific run stopper and is the anchor of the Patriots’ linebacking corps, a role that not many players have held over the past sixteen years.
Earlier in the summer, Dont’a Hightower joined elite company when he was given the locker that had belonged to both Willie McGinest, and Jerod Mayo, two Pats held in the highest of esteem.
According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, this locker is Bill Belichick’s “most highly-prized real estate.” No matter how cliche, or football-stereotypical that may sound, Dont’a Hightower receiving a locker with such a reputation is nothing to shake a stick at. It was a clear sign that Hightower was in line for a captainship, and now, that sentiment has come to fruition.
While Dont’a Hightower does not come as a surprise, Rob Gronkowski does.
From the outside, Gronk is thought of as a party boy. For years, all we saw were videos of him partying, dancing like an idiot, and consuming an astounding amount of alcohol.
However, Patriots fans know this isn’t the whole story.
I’m not going to sit here act like Gronk doesn’t enjoy himself. I know he does. But I also know that he works harder than most of the guys in the NFL. It’s been well documented that he’s a gym rat, that he works out literally whenever he can.
I know how hard he’s worked to come back from major injuries too.
He broke his arm, almost broke his ankle, tore his ACL, and yet, he always comes back. He always puts in the work and gets back on the field as soon as possible. It’s remarkable.
And if we do want to look at his partying we can, because it’s never affected his play, or even his availability. However much he’s partied has never mattered. He’s always put the team first, and he’s always been there when the team has needed him. He was more than deserving of being a team captain.
With Hightower and Gronk joining the captain ranks, two guys had to be knocked out. Those two guys were Tom Brady and Rob Ninkovich.
Now, I can’t be sure, but I’m assuming there’s a steadfast rule within the Patriots organization that if a player is under suspension, they cannot be named captain. But let’s speculate as to what’s going to happen when they return.
On one hand, Brady’s suspension is ludicrous, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he retained the title upon his return. He’s been a captain since 2002, I’d think Belichick would give him a chance to become one once again.
On the other, Ninkovich is facing a different predicament. Unlike Brady, his suspension is warranted. He tested positive for a banned substance. I don’t know if he’ll be awarded a second chance at becoming a captain. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Until then, though, the Patriots have their four captains.
Matthew Slater and Devin McCourty will remain bonafide leaders while Dont’a Hightower and Rob Gronkowski will try their hands at being “the guys” in the locker room.
I’m sure they’ll succeed.