A severe knee injury caused the veteran running back to miss three full NFL seasons before his first comeback with the New Orleans Saints in 2015. Now after sitting out another season when nobody picked him up after the final preseason roster cutdown in 2017, Hightower rejoined the Saints for a minicamp tryout that ends Thursday.
“My body still feels strong and healthy,” the 32-year-old Hightower said Wednesday (June 13). “So as long as I can continue at that high level and contribute, I’m going to go for it.”
The Saints will play the first four regular season games without Mark Ingram due to a league-mandated suspension for violating the league rule on performance-enhancing drugs.
That has the team checking all the experienced ballcarriers it can find to share backfield duties with Alvin Kamara. ESPN reported the Saints talked with Jamaal Charles and DeMarco Murray about coming in for a visit or workout, and NFL Network reported Wednesday that the team planned to sign Terrance West.
Hightower appears to also be in that mix, but only if the team signs him to the roster after the three-day tryout. His familiarity with the offense helps, he said.
“I had a good conversation with coach (Sean) Payton,” Hightower said. “I know the situation they’re in.”
Hightower left a positive impression after his first go-around with the Saints. His late-season surge after Ingram suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2015 helped keep him on the roster for 2016.
The Saints did not re-sign Hightower after that season, instead selecting Kamara in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Hightower joined the San Francisco 49ers that April and stayed with the team until the final preseason roster cutdown.
Ingram and Kamara both topped 1,500 yards from scrimmage and played together in the Pro Bowl. “They did a good job here,” Hightower said.
Brees referenced a “huge comfort level” with having Hightower back in the huddle.
“He’s a veteran guy that I think is a tremendous influence on young guys,” Brees said.
Whatever the Saints decide, Hightower expects to hear it from Payton.
“He’ll shoot me straight,” Hightower said. “When he needs me, he’ll let me know he needs me and we’ll go from there.”
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