The replay seemed to show the ground caused the fumble. That’s even what Ken Whisenhunt saw, with the coach noting “I don’t believe that was a fumble.” Had the call been reversed Sunday with a little more than a minute left, the Cards would have avoided some nausea in their 17-13 win. Yet Tim Hightower wasn’t thinking, “How could they not overturn that?”
It was “How can I not hold on to the football?” Hightower said. “How could I even give them a reason? That’s what I was thinking. Especially after the first one, especially in that situation. The game is pretty much over. All we have to do is keep the ball. Forget the rest.”
Hightower didn’t keep it, officiating decisions aside. Whisenhunt also made the same point — don’t even let it become an issue.
It seems to have become an issue for Hightower, however. After fumbling twice (losing none) as a rookie, Hightower fumbled five times in 2009, losing four, before a two-and-two showing Sunday. The first submarined what had been an excellent opening drive. The second came right after safety Kerry Rhodes made what should have been a game-clinching interception and forced a tired defense back on the field.
“Shouldn’t have had to go out there again,” weary defensive tackle Darnell Dockett said Monday. “I’m going to go out and give Tim Hightower hell all week long about that.”
It’s been an issue for the Cardinals’ backs since last year. Officially Beanie Wells was credited with four fumbles, losing two, last season, although there were a couple of other times Wells was involved in the ball hitting the ground. Whisenhunt thinks Hightower’s problem might be a question of trying to generate speed, but of course, ball security is the priority. “He said during he game he was (carrying high and tight) but then you look at it on tape and it’s not,” Whisenhunt said.
Wells is supposed to be back at practice this week and it will be interesting when he does return if this affects Hightower’s playing time at all. Whisenhunt certainly didn’t sound like a coach down on a player talking about the subject. He has long liked Hightower for both his versatility and his work ethic. “The fact we won the game makes it a little bit easier to live with,” Whisenhunt acknowledged, saying he told Hightower, “You’re going to have to work on it and you’re going to have to be a pro and how you handle this is going to define where you go from here.”
“Because of who Tim is,” Whisenhunt added, “I have no concerns that we’ll get this fixed.”
Hightower stood at his locker and answered questions calmly Monday. He didn’t hide from the problem, which is a good sign. He insisted — as he had before — fumbling had never been a problem in the past (before 2009, I am assuming) and “I don’t plan on making it a problem.”
“I have had some good days and I have had some bad days,” Hightower said. “I am learning about that fine line of staying even-keeled. It’s about putting your head down and going back to work.”
Tags: Beanie Wells, Darnell Dockett, Ken Whisenhunt, Tim Hightower
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