Not only did the Patriots lose linebackers Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts this offseason, they also lost Dont'a Hightower, as he recently decided to opt out of the 2020 season.
Speaking via video conference Wednesday, Ja'Whaun Bentley discussed how the group can replace him.
“I guess from the jump, we have to come in here and meet our new teammates again," he said. "We’ve had an opportunity to meet them over the computer and virtually. Now we have the opportunity to actually be in the building with the guys and kind of meet everybody. But, we have a lot of great talent. Shoutout to Jamie, and High, all those guys. Obviously you respect the decision that Hightower made, he had no choice but to do that. But, nonetheless we have to come in here and try and work. We have to work. We have to figure out our roles. We have to keep pushing forward.”
Bentley, who is now the longest tenured linebacker on the team, said he will still talk with Hightower to try and get as much intel as he can.
“We’re always talking," he said. "He’s definitely on my list of people to talk to whether it be about leadership or anything. Along with him we’ve had a lot of great vets that I have been surrounded with over my past two years since I have been with New England. You’re always picking those guys’ brains, seeing different things that you can bring to your game and that has been my approach since Day 1. Whether that be college or the NFL, it is picking guys’ brains and seeing if I can steal so to speak to bring to my game and kind of elevate it.”
The linebacker was a three-year captain at Purdue, so he may be asked to be more of a leader with the team this season, but he noted his philosophy on leadership is it shouldn't be forced.
“I have been here and we have a lot of new guys so you have to step into whatever role fits you best," Bentley said. "I am a big advocate for not forcing a leadership role. Leadership finds you. It finds you and you react with that. You never force the leadership position. You let it happen. I am a big fan of that and right now with meeting our guys we’re able to connect and build relationships with everybody (so when) we get our on the field we can communicate better. I am a big fan of communication, so I think that will be a big thing for that. And now, along with the rookies with the new guys we have coming in, we’re all learning the plays again. We’re all getting into the flow of things, which is good.”
Although he's been in the league for just two years, Bentley played in only three his rookie season.