After four years in the desert,
The former Arizona Cardinal joined the Redskins as part of a trade and quickly emerged as the starting running back.
Six games into the season, Hightower suffered a torn ACL. His season ended with 321 yards and one touchdown on 84 carries.
The injury was unfortunate timing.
Hightower is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
The injury certainly impacts the market for Hightower, but he hopes to stay in Washington anyway.
For the Alexandria, Va., native, this is home.
“I called it home growing up here, and to be able to call it home for my job, that would be great,” Hightower said at the end of last season.
Hightower has participated in several charity events since joining the team and it’s clear he is eager to re-establish his roots in the Washington, D.C. area.
“I love this organization,” he said. “Coming back here made me realize how much it would mean for me to be here. Getting a chance to play here and be around family, and just go places and be around fans and this city, it was special for me. This is somewhere I would like to play a long time.”
Most torn knee ligaments require about 6-8 months of rehab, and Redskins athletic trainers typically encourage the 8-month rehab.
If Hightower re-signs with the Redskins, his return to the practice fields could be mid-June. More likely he could return for the start of training camp.
Hightower won’t speculate on a timetable, though.
“I know I’ll be ready when the season starts and I know I’ll be 100 percent full speed,” he said. “That’s the only date in my head.”
Helu finished as the Redskins’ leading rusher with 640 yards while Royster closed out his season with two consecutive 100-yard efforts.
Hightower said he was not concerned, suggesting that each back brings something different to the table.
“I’m not Evan and I’m not Roy and they are not me,” he said. “They did an excellent job. They did great with what they were given and with the talent they have. I have a lot of respect for them. At the same time, I know what I can do and I know what I can bring to the football team.”
First he must iron out a contract.
Head coach Mike Shanahan indicated that he liked what he saw in Hightower last season.
“I’m thinking that he’ll be back full-speed, ready to go,” Shanahan said. “A lot of people who have [torn] ACLs, with the rehab and what they go through, they’re usually able to come back full-speed. And we’ll keep our fingers crossed that he goes through rehab and there are no setbacks and he is as good as new.
“I like the way he practiced. He was accountable on a day-to-day basis. [I liked] the way he played throughout preseason and the first four games. He’s tough, hard-nosed, and he was a good addition to our football team.”
Hightower, who has spent time at Redskins Park this offseason, said he remains focused on rehab, not his contract status.
He was proud of how he performed in his six-game stint last season.
“I know I gave it my all, I always do that,” he said. “When you prepare one way, when you practice one way, when you play one way – I’m the same guy every single day. I feel like I gave it everything I had here.
“I have to let them make that decision [on his contract], but I don’t have any regrets. I’m just looking forward to getting ready.”