Infection gone, Tim Hightower eyes return

RICHMOND, Va. -- The calls would come, and there was little former Redskins running back Tim Hightower could do. They wanted to know if he was healthy. He’d say no. They wanted to know why it was taking so long to recover from ACL surgery in 2011. There was no good answer.

Finally, last fall, Hightower could provide one. Doctors found an infection in his surgically-repaired left knee. Now Hightower says he was cleared two months ago and wants another shot at the NFL.

“There’s curiosity [by teams]. ‘It’s been two years, if he’s healthy we’ll give him a physical and give him a workout and see where he is,’ ” said Hightower, who attended the Redskins walk-through practice Saturday. “That’s all I ask.”

Hightower underwent surgery in the fall of 2011 and attempted to return the following summer with the Redskins. He participated in camp, but his knee was not right, and the Redskins cut him a week before the regular season. He worked out for some teams but was never signed. Meanwhile, his knee endured a roller-coaster ride. It would feel good one day while working out and then bad enough to shut him down for a week.

Eventually he switched doctors, and they discovered the truth about the infection.

“It was a combination of an MRI but also hearing the symptoms,” Hightower said. “[The doctor said], ‘These aren’t post-ACL symptoms.’ “

That led to a combination of relief, peace of mind and a little anxiety. Hightower called himself fortunate that the infection was not worse.

“I heard about some guys who got it from the knee, and it spread to the rest of their body,” he said. “I was upset that I wasn’t able to play, but it’s a matter of getting this thing taken care of. I could have been back out there two years ago. But some guys have a lot bigger problems than just not being able to play football. They’ve had life-altering changes.”

The change Hightower now wants to make is a return to the NFL. He played three seasons with Arizona before coming to Washington. In 2011, Hightower played five games with the Redskins, rushing for 321 yards and adding another 78 in receptions. Then he tore his ACL, starting him on this journey.

Yes, he said his agent has talked to the Redskins but characterized it as an informal conversation. Hightower knows he now must be patient. So he trains in Richmond, where he played collegiately.

“At certain points I was like, is it going to be like this for the rest of my life?” Hightower said of how he felt before the infection was discovered. “I came back, I fought and did everything I possibly could. But I knew I wasn’t where I was before I got hurt. But in the past three or four months of training, running and cutting, the knee isn’t swelling and I’m doing things every single day consistently. That is reassuring. That feels good.”