- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2012

Tim Hightower lives by the motto “Purpose Driven,” and right now his purpose is returning from a serious knee injury and being a productive running back in 2012. He cleared an important hurdle in that process Monday when he re-signed with the Washington Redskins.

“It was a great fit for me,” Hightower said. “I like the coaching staff. I like the direction that we started heading in last year, the kind of guys they were bringing in and what they look for. It was kind of a no-brainer for me.”

Hightower signed a one-year deal, he said. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. After tearing the ACL in his left knee Oct. 23, he knows he has to prove himself to earn a long-term contract.

“I guess that’s the story of my life,” he said. “Regardless of whether you sign a three-year deal, a five-year deal or a one-year deal, that teaches me to stay on my toes. You never get relaxed in this business or life in general. It’s not a negative thing where, hey, you could be back in this situation next year. Me, I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”

Hightower’s debut season with the Redskins ended in Week 7 when he cut back on a second-half run against the Carolina Panthers. His knee buckled. He faced surgery and a long rehabilitation for the first time in his life.

“Rehab is not like training,” Hightower said. “Training, you can push your body to crazy limits. Rehab, you sometimes have to trust the doctor when he says: ‘That’s enough for today. Shut it down.’ That was a challenge for me.”

Re-signing Hightower re-establishes the status quo at the running back position. After visiting the New England Patriots during free agency, he is expected to team with second-year backs Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster for the second straight season.

Hightower, who turns 26 on May 23, has a strong chance to begin 2012 as the starter despite his injury. Redskins coaches believe him to be a strong fit for the outside zone scheme because of his speed, vision and ability to square his shoulders to the line of scrimmage and burst up field. He also is sound in pass protection.

Asked if doctors have fully cleared him, Hightower said only that he has been cleared to keep training and preparing for the season.

Helu led the team last season with 640 yards (4.2 average) and two rushing touchdowns filling in for Hightower. Hightower averaged 3.8 yards per carry and scored one touchdown. He knows he has to win back his starting spot.

“That’s the least of my worries right now,” he said. “My focus is on improving each day and really committing to getting into the best shape I can. That stuff will get determined in due time when it should be. I’ve just got to stay determined.”

• Rich Campbell can be reached at rcampbell@washingtontimes.com.

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