ATLANTA ( - A day after missing practice with an illness, startling linebacker Dont'a Hightower returned for the New England Patriots final practice session before Super Bowl LIII on Sunday.

The Pats went a little more than an hour with no pads, not even shells and every player was a full participant including Hightower and defensive tackle Malcolm Brown, who was limited with a calf injury earlier in the week.

“He did everything today,” coach Bill Belichick said of Hightower. “You could hear him talking out there, and that’s usually a good sign with him. He has plenty of energy.”

Used to the environment of the big game, New England marched through a business-like session in which the offense and defense working against scout teams mimicking the Los Angeles Rams at about three-quarters speed.

Belichick called Friday's session a “quick review” and similar to their regular Friday practices, albeit a little shorter. The Patriots worked on situational football, including red-zone, two-minute, goal-line, short-yardage and two-point plays. The specialists, meanwhile, were sent to Mercedes-Benz Stadium earlier in the morning.

“This is our sixth practice [since the AFC Championship Game],” Belichick said. “We have hit everything. I think we are ready to go.”

In other news, Lawyer Milloy, the former Patriots safety who was part of the team’s Super Bowl XXXVI win against the Rams in 2002, broke down the huddle with the team’s typical “Awww Yeah” catchphrase.

The Pats Saturday schedule included a team meeting and then a trip to Mercedes-Benz Stadium for a team photo and a get-together with family and friends.

“We’ve still got a few things to review and cover, but I would say everybody now needs to just gear up for how we want to play the game and be ready to go out there and play it that way," Belichick said. “I think the next 48 hours are going to be really important like they always are. Fine-tuning it and really zeroing in. Being physically, mentally and emotionally ready to go Sunday night.”

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for Extra Points Media and You can reach him at or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

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