- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tim Hightower wore a knee brace and a smile Thursday as he scooted through the halls of Redskins Park on crutches. After having surgery last Tuesday to reconstruct the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the Washington Redskins‘ leading rusher is eager to turn his focus to his rehabilitation.

“Mentally, it’s still frustrating, but I think I’m in a lot better place than where I was last week,” Hightower said. “Playing this sport for a long time, my respect level for guys who have had surgeries and had injuries and then come back from them stronger goes up very much. Now when I see an injury at the bottom of the screen, my heart kind of goes out to them.”

Last week’s surgery was Hightower’s first.

“I was as stubborn as it gets,” he said, “but they nailed me and strapped me to the table.”

The Redskins‘ running game hasn’t been the same since he was injured during the third quarter against Carolina in Week 7. His 321 rushing yards still lead the team; Roy Helu is second with 213. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that game started their current losing streak.

Hightower’s contract expires at the end of this season, so his future with the team is in doubt. His return to health will be a major factor, and that process already is underway.

ACL injuries normally take six months to a year to recover from, but don’t mention timetables to Hightower.

“I’m going to give it all I have,” he said. “I’m going to put as much emotion and as much passion into rehabbing my knee as I did playing football. I didn’t even ask for timelines because I don’t listen to them anyway.”

Orakpo no beast vs. East

Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo has 26 sacks in 32 NFL games. There’s a twist, though. Only one of them has come against one of the Redskins‘ NFC East opponents.

So that’s one sack in 15 career divisional games, and 25 sacks in 17 against non-divisional foes.

“In the division, that’s where I’m kind of lacking as far as getting there,” Orakpo said. “We play each other twice. They know what they’re dealing with and we know what they’re dealing with, as well. It’s just tougher, but I’ve got to keep grinding through it.”

Orakpo faces more double teams than outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan on the other side, but it’s not as though the NFC East is loaded with Pro Bowl left tackles.

Count defensive coordinator Jim Haslett among those who are stumped by the discrepancy.

“I think he’s just got to keep working at it, and those things will come,” Haslett said. “I really don’t have an answer for why.”

Injury updates

• Linebacker London Fletcher (ankle) returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday’s session. He is expected to start against Dallas alongside second-year linebacker Perry Riley, Haslett said.

• Safety LaRon Landry (Achilles tendon) missed practice for the second straight day. Landry insists he’ll play.

“You’re not really sure of it until he practices,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “Obviously, it’s inflamed enough where he couldn’t practice, so that’s never a good sign.”

• Left guard Maurice Hurt (knee), linebacker Keyaron Fox (staph infection) and receiver Niles Paul (toe) sat out practice.

• Tackles Jammal Brown (left groin) and Sean Locklear (ankle) were limited.

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