AP Sports Writer
WASHINGTON - The Washington Redskins cut Tim Hightower on Friday, the latest twist in coach Mike Shanahan's 2 1/2-year search for a consistent starter at running back.
Hightower, who was returning from knee surgery, was one of 23 players trimmed from the roster as the Redskins head into the regular season opener against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 9.
Included in the tally was safety Tanard Jackson, who was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
Hightower's departure leaves the Redskins with three recent draft picks _ second-year players Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. and rookie Alfred Morris _ competing for a starting job that's been in flux since Clinton Portis was injured during the 2010 season.
Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams have been among the hopefuls who have started games since then and are no longer with the team.
The Redskins acquired Hightower in a trade with the Arizona Cardinals last year. He won the starting job out of training camp but played in only five games before tearing the ACL in his left knee. He re-signed with Washington in May and played in only one preseason game, getting five carries for 28 yards.
Jackson's suspension complicates matters at safety. He joined Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams as new additions this year as the Redskins attempted to rebuild the position after parting ways with LaRon Landry and Oshiomogho Atogwe.
But Meriweather missed the last two preseason games after hurting his left knee against the Chicago Bears. His injury and Jackson's suspension no doubt played a part in Shanahan's decision to keep five safeties on the roster.
Jackson will be able to apply for reinstatement in exactly one year. He previously had two drugs-related suspensions during his five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 2007 fourth-round pick was banished for four games in 2009 and for 12 months starting in September 2010.
The Buccaneers terminated Jackson's contract in April after he failed a physical. He signed a one-year deal with the Redskins a few days later, reuniting him with former Tampa Bay head coach and new Washington defensive backs coach Raheem Morris.
Jackson spent the first part of training camp recovering from knee and shoulder injuries, but he started against the Indianapolis Colts in the third preseason game.
Among the bubble players making the cut was Brandon Banks, the high risk-high reward return man who can change games with his speed but is sometimes careless with the ball.
Shanahan said Banks needed to show improvement as a receiver to stay on the team, and Banks helped his cause with a 47-yard catch in Wednesday night's preseason finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Redskins also cut quarterback Jonathan Crompton; receivers Anthony Armstrong and Terrence Austin; tight end Richard Quinn; offensive linemen Tom Compton, Grant Garner, Willie Smith and Erik Cook; defensive linemen Doug Worthington, Darrion Scott, Delvin Johnson and Marlon Favorite; linebackers Bryan Kehl, Markus White and Donnell Holt; and defensive backs Travon Bellamy, Brandyn Thompson and David Jones.
Fullback Dorson Boyce and running back Tristan Davis were waived-injured. Linebacker Brian McNally was waived with an injury settlement.
The Redskins also placed exempt defensive end Kentwan Balmer on the reserve-left squad list. Balmer left the team several weeks ago during training camp, having decided he no longer wanted to play football.
Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
She can sing, but can she act? Jewel takes on a famous role.
"Sulu" weighs in on the actor filling his shoes in the new "Star Trek."
A fallen police officer's daughter gets a swarm of support. (Photos)
Snooki awkwardly meets "Jersey Shore" nemesis Chris Christie.