When Tony Hills was released by the Saints three weeks ago in their final cutdown to 53 players, the veteran tackle made sure to leave one message with the equipment staff.
"Don't get rid of my stuff," Hills told them. "I'll be back."
Hills knew what he was talking about. With left tackle Terron Armstead dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of Thursday's practice, the Saints brought back Hills on Wednesday, adding insurance to the tackle position.
For the 31-year-old Hills, even though he's played on 10 teams, it felt like coming home.
"This is my place," Hills said. "I love it. I don't want to go anywhere else."
Hills, who played 72 snaps for the Saints last season, including a memorable fill-in on short notice against the Atlanta Falcons, had been harboring a secret. From the moment he was released by New Orleans, the 31-year-old tackle had made a decision.
"In my mind, it was going to be New Orleans or I was going to get ready to transition," Hills said. "It was either New Orleans or get ready to do something else."
Hills, who lives in Texas, has already started setting the table for the end of his football career. The big tackle has a few franchising opportunities in the works, and he plans to be a high school coach when it's all said and done.
Before that can start, though, the Saints need his services once again.
"When I came back, everybody was happy to see me, and (the equipment staff) said 'hey, we left your stuff in there," Hills said. "I love what we're doing here."