A torn ACL cut short Tim Hightower’s 2011 season and prevented him from playing in 2012. (John McDonnell – The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins and New York Giants have both had exploratory talks regarding the services of free agent running back Tim Hightower, who last played for the Redskins during the 2012 preseason, two people with knowledge of the situation said.

It wasn’t immediately clear how serious the Redskins’ interest is, but the Giants held talks with Hightower earlier this month and were expected to meet with him again “in a couple weeks,” one person said. The second person said they weren’t sure how close either team was to signing Hightower, however.

The Redskins acquired Hightower via trade from the Arizona Cardinals in the summer of 2011, and he opened the season as their starting running back. But he tore his ACL in the fifth game of the season. In five games, Hightower had 84 carries for 321 yards and a touchdown. He also had 10 catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.

Hightower had surgery to repair the ligament and he attempted a comeback last preseason. He declined the option of opening training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list and, in the Redskins’ third preseason game, rushed for 28 yards on five carries — including an 18-yard run.

But Hightower’s knee swelled up after the game, and with his knee slow to recover at the time Washington had to make final roster cuts, he was released. Hightower said in an interview in January that he regretted the decision not to open the season on the PUP list.

At the time of his release, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said the team would be open to bringing back Hightower once his knee had recovered.

The 26-year-old Hightower’s knee now is said to be “feeling great.”

The Redskins are looking for a running back who could be used to spell starter Alfred Morris, particularly on third downs. Hightower excelled both in pass protection and as a receiver out of the backfield. Washington, however, is hoping to get Roy Helu back from a toe injury that forced him to miss the bulk of last season and has continued to slow him this offseason. The team has third-year pro Evan Royster on the roster, and just drafted a pair of running backs, Florida State’s Chris Thompson and Rutgers’s Jawan Jamison.

The Giants, meanwhile, are looking for help at running back with Ahmad Bradshaw no longer with the team and with second-year pro David Wilson and Andre Brown expected to battle for starting duties. Another former Redskins player, Ryan Torain, is hoping to earn a backup spot.

More Redskins and NFL coverage:

Redskins sign fifth-round pick Thompson

A closer look at Thompson and Jamison

Chiefs of three Virginia tribes say they have no problem with ‘Redskins’ | Bog’s take

Hall says he’s okay with taking a paycut to come back to Washington

Is Alfred Morris the Redskins’ best player? Pete Prisco says he is

Redskins sign wide receiver Lance Lewis

Should a Redskins player ever wear No. 21 again?

The Other 31:  Bears | Cardinals | Falcons | Ravens | Bills | Panthers