- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- By the time you read this, I will be on the sideline watching the Washington Redskins' afternoon practice. But before I headed out there, I wanted to give you something from this morning's indoor walkthrough. Running back Tim Hightower, who's recovering from knee surgery and still isn't 100 percent, didn't get any reps this morning. The reps went to second-year backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster and rookie Alfred Morris. Hightower said he's planning to practice this afternoon, but he's obviously not moving well and it remains to be seen how much the coaching staff will give him to do.
As we've written here many times, Hightower would be the Redskins' starting running back if he were healthy. But he is not, and for that reason he sees himself in competition with those other guys for that starting spot. He said his goal isn't to get back in time for the regular-season opener Sept. 9. in New Orleans but rather the preseason opener against Buffalo 10 days from now.
"The way I look at it, Buffalo is a game and a chance for me to get better," Hightower said. "It's a job interview for me, something to put on my resume, something to help me get better and ultimately something to help me build that chemistry that this team needs. We need this presaeason. We need every single practice, every single game. And they need me out there. So if I'm able to be out there, I'm going to be out there."
Hightower also said he's not worried about his knee keeping him from being as big a part of the running back competition as he might need to be at this point.
"I can't control the situation right now," Hightower said. "I was injured last year. And obviously, if I wasn't, then yeah, it would be very, very tough to not be out there and competing. But those guys are them. Helu's going to be Helu and Royster's going to be Royster. They're very talented, and they're doing the best with their opportunity. And when I come in, I'm going to do the best with my opportunity."
Since acquiring Hightower last summer in a trade with Arizona, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has made it clear in words and actions that he believes him to be the most complete back on the roster and the one best suited to being a full-time starter. But Hightower said that doesn't make him feel any better about his chances, especially since Helu and Royster have a year's worth of experience now and posted some big numbers late last year when he was injured.
"I trust that he's going to play the best guy on game day," Hightower said of Shanahan. "There's no special relationship that he has with me over anyone else. He has respect for me and I have respect for him as a coach, but at the end of the day his responsibility and his commitment is to this team and to put the best person on that field. And it's my job to be the best person on that field and help him make that decision."
My take is that Hightower's competition is with his knee, and if he can get to full-speed by the time the season starts he will begin the year as the starter just as he did in 2011. But there remains a decent chance that he does not get healthy, and if he doesn't, the competition is wide open. You can hear me talk about all of this on "NFL Live" today sometime in the 4 p.m. hour on your television.
Back later with some practice observations.