However, ESPN's Adam Schefter, citing a team source, reported the Patriots have not confirmed Hightower will miss the season as the linebacker is scheduled to visit with Dr. James Andrews today.
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald reported Wednesday that Hightower had been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers due to a shoulder injury suffered during New England's Week 7 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
As the centerpiece of New England's defense, Hightower has registered 14 tackles and 2.0 sacks in five games this season.
He has already missed a pair of contests due to a sprained MCL, and playing without Hightower isn't a foreign concept to the Pats.
In his six NFL seasons, Hightower has appeared in all 16 games just once, and he has missed multiple games in the other five campaigns.
Despite missing three games in 2016, Hightower racked up 65 tackles and 2.5 sacks en route to his first career Pro Bowl nod.
He is a true, do-it-all linebacker, and that may never have been more apparent than in 2014 when he made 105 tackles and set a career mark with 6.0 sacks.
The 2012 first-round pick out of Alabama represents a significant loss for a Patriots defense that ranks last in the NFL in total yardage allowed per game (426.7) and 23rd in points allowed per game (23.7).
Veteran David Harris will likely step into a starting role with Hightower on the shelf.
Although the former New York Jets star has made 100 or more tackles in a season on six occasions, he is now 33 years of age and has just four tackles thus far in 2017.