Bedard: If Dont’a Hightower plays as good as he looks this season … look out

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(Adam Richins for BSJ)

FOXBOROUGH — We're not talking about anything dramatic here. We're not even talking about a difference in weight.

"Believe it or not, I'm the same weight," he told with a sly smile.

But if you've been out to Patriots practice this summer, the difference may be subtle but it's unmistakable: Dont'a Hightower looks good. Like really good.

And if that's any indication of how Hightower might play this season, then the Patriots will be thrilled. From how he's performed in training camp, Hightower appears to be on the verge of being the Dont'a of old — you know, the type of guy who can and does take over the biggest games and make the most impactful play at the crucial time (Super Bowl wins over the Seahawks and Falcons, among others).

"He’s made a lot of big plays for us, and he has done a lot of different things,” Bill Belichick said in 2017. “He’s got good leadership on and off the field. He’s a very smart player, has been in a lot of big games, a lot of big situations. ... He’s a key player for us.”

Even last season, Hightower saved his best for the biggest moment: two sacks, four total pressures, a pass defense and one tone-setting slam of Rams tight end Tyler Higbee.

Hightower could make a significant living just being "Big Game High" — and he has, considering he's signed through 2020 and will count $11 million against the cap each of the next two seasons.

But Hightower knows he can be better for the team on an every-down, every-game basis, and that's what this slight but significant body transformation has been about.

"Just trying to stay healthy, just trying to