Knee injury hands Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis another setback _lowres

Associated Press photo by Evan Vucci -- Trainers check Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis after he injured his knee against the Redskins on Sunday in Landover, Md.

LANDOVER, Md. —Keenan Lewis sat at his locker striking the pose of a man who had fought his way to the end of a maze, only to find out he needed to go back and start over.

The New Orleans Saints cornerback has not had the season he was hoping for. He started the season on the sidelines recovering from hip surgery and has spent the past several weeks trying to get his body back to full strength.

That process was still ongoing, but Lewis was finally starting to voice optimism in recent weeks. Then, during Sunday’s 47-14 loss to Washington, DeSean Jackson’s helmet collided with Lewis’ knee, which knocked Lewis out of action and left the cornerback with another ailment to overcome.

“I’m going through it,” Lewis said. “I’m a strong individual. I’ll find a way. It’s tough. You think you’re back, and then you get offset again with something like this.”

Lewis said he would find out the extent of his injury Monday. But regardless of the diagnosis, he already feels like this has been one of the toughest seasons he’s been through.

It was also clear frustration was weighing on him. The injuries are bad enough, but the fact that his teammates are also struggling has further burdened Lewis.

“I guess it’s one of those years where you’re trying to fight for your team but your body won’t allow you to do it,” Lewis said. “It’s tough, man. I’m trying to get out of this slump that I’m in bodywise.

“It ain’t nothing I ain’t seen out there. I feel like I can play with the best of them. My body won’t allow me to.”

Playing through pain

Terron Armstead has been playing in pain the past four weeks.

Armstead, who missed two games because of an injured left knee, has been a rock for the Saints at left tackle while trying to manage pain that has kept him from practicing.

For the first time in his career, he made a start Sunday even though he wasn’t able to practice at all during the week. New Orleans’ coaching staff pulled the left tackle out of Sunday’s 47-14 loss after the game got out of hand.

“It’s been a challenge,” Armstead said. “I can’t say what percentage I am.”

More than two hours before Sunday’s game, Armstead headed out to the field and tested out his knee to make sure he could start.

Armstead, who has given up only one sack this season as he establishes himself as one of the NFL’s top tackles in his third year, has been able to continue a breakout season despite the injury.

“I’ve just tried to play smarter over these few weeks,” Armstead said. “I don’t think I’ve really changed much.”

Bittersweet comeback

Tim Hightower accomplished a personal milestone Sunday.

Brought back to the Saints two weeks ago after Khiry Robinson suffered a broken leg against the Giants, Hightower played against Tennessee, but he didn’t get a carry. Then a minor injury to Mark Ingram put the ball back in the veteran’s hands.

Hightower got 11 carries for 46 yards Sunday, a little more than three years after Hightower tore his ACL while playing for Washington.

But the accomplishment was bittersweet.

“I’m trying to be thankful,” Hightower said. “It’s really kind of hard to enjoy it.”

Now that Hightower is back in the NFL, he’s focused on the task at hand rather than reminiscing about how far he’s come.

“I don’t want to be just another guy on the field,” Hightower said. “It’s not about me, it’s not about how many carries I do or don’t get. It’s about us winning. I’m appreciative of this opportunity, but I’m a competitor. I want to win.”

Looking for juice

New Orleans made a change in its return game on Sunday.

Rookie Marcus Murphy, who has handled all of the return duties this season, gave way to C.J. Spiller on kick returns and Jairus Byrd on one punt return.

Murphy had fumbled in each of the past two weeks, but Saints coach Sean Payton said the rookie is still the primary return man. Spiller averaged 19.7 yards on three returns.

“On kick returns, we put C.J. back there just to give us a little juice,” Payton said.

Murphy did return one punt for 10 yards.