METAIRIE, La. -- Tim Hightower is one step closer to playing in his first NFL game since 2011.
Hightower, 29, spent the entire offseason with the Saints while attempting a comeback from a 2011 ACL injury. He briefly made the roster for parts of Weeks 1 and 2, but he was released because New Orleans had so much depth at the position.
It’s unclear if Highower, 29, will immediately jump into the rotation along with Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller -- especially since on Monday coach Sean Payton talked up rookie Marcus Murphy's ability to play a bigger role on offense.
But Payton said the 6-foot, 220-pound Hightower is the type of physical runner the Saints were looking for to replace Robinson in more of a first- and second-down role.
"We felt like Tim will give us some first- and second-down versatility," Payton said on his weekly WWL Radio show Monday night. "He had a good training camp, he’s in great shape. He’s got a physical way about him, the way he runs. So it really was the type of back we’re looking for.
"I think we felt like if we lost a running back, he would certainly be a candidate for us to look at, and he’ll have that opportunity now."
Hightower ran for 96 yards on 26 carries during the preseason -- the first time he had even been with a team during the summer since he was last with the Washington Redskins in 2012. Doctors didn’t discover until the fall of 2013 that Hightower was dealing with an infection that stunted his recovery.
Hightower began his career with the Arizona Cardinals and Redskins, amassing 2,054 rushing yards, 879 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns from 2008-2011.
Payton credited Hightower in September for not only playing well in training camp, but being "a real good teammate."
"He has a presence about him that I think benefits all of us, our team," Payton said at the time.
The Saints also worked out running backs Trent Richardson and Travaris Cadet on Monday, according to league sources, before going with Hightower.