The 49ers released Hightower on Friday, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports. Early in training camp, there were some inklings that Hightower was vying for reps with the first-team offense over Carlos Hyde, but the cream rose to the top throughout the preseason, leaving Hyde in his expected role with the top reserve RB spot going to undrafted free agent Matt Breida. At 31 years of age, Hightower may be reaching the end of the line as a viable professional.
Hightower had eight carries for 21 yards and a touchdown and two catches for four yards on two targets in Thursday's preseason finale against the Chargers. Hightower may be competing for one roster spot against Raheem Mostert, who was held out of Thursday's game after piling up 130 yards and two touchdowns on six touches the previous week. Hightower didn't make much of a case this preseason, gaining 20 yards on 11 carries with a touchdown and a lost fumble. Even if he were to stick with the team, he'd likely be no higher than third on the backfield depth chart. Rookies Matt Breida and Joe Williams figure to serve as Carlos Hyde's backups.
Hightower may be on the bubble for a roster spot with the 49ers, Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee reports. Carlos Hyde and 2017 fourth-round pick Joe Williams entered camp as roster locks, and undrafted rookie Matt Breida has also made a strong push for a spot. Hightower may be competing against Raheem Mostert for one roster spot, with the battle potentially playing out during Thursday's preseason finale against the Chargers. Even if he does end up making the team, Hightower won't necessarily have a significant Week 1 role on offense.
Hightower did not see the field in Sunday's preseason loss to the Vikings. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has been alternating starts with his backup running backs this preseason, so expect Hightower to receive a heavy workload in Thursday's exhibition finale against the Chargers. The 31-year-old projects to be in the mix as one of Carlos Hyde's primary backups once the games begin to count.
Hightower (knee) logged his first game action as a 49er on Saturday, carrying the ball three times for a loss of one and fumbling once in a preseason loss to Denver. San Francisco went down early and only controlled the ball for 21 minutes, so Hightower wasn't afforded many opportunities to showcase his abilities. On a positive note, the 31-year-old was healthy enough to suit up after missing last week's contest with a minor knee ailment. Carlos Hyde is clearly the 49ers' top running back option after receiving all of the first-team carries in both preseason contests, leaving Hightower to compete with Joe Williams for meaningful backup touches this season.
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|3||09/22||Los Angeles Rams||30||27.00|
|10||11/12||New York Giants||11||13.00|
|17||12/31||@Los Angeles Rams||30||27.00|
|3 Year Avg||114||462||4||17||164||0||86|