Hightower must hang on

Posted by Darren Urban on September 13, 2010 – 4:40 pm

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.”

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60 Responses to “Hightower must hang on”

  1. By Catcher Freeman on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Gotta keep the ball in your outside arm, Timmy

  2. By TMAS on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Do you think Hyphen could be more involved in the offense if the fumble monster keeps making problems for Hightower?

  3. By Darren Urban on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    TMAS —

    If it persists, perhaps. But not right now.

  4. By johnnybluenose on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    i’m sure it’s hard not to fumble when big, strong guys are trying to rip the ball out of your arms. for me, the issue is that hightower seemed to not realize that the clock was winding down and the only thing he was entrusted to do was not fumble the ball. he seemed to be trying to gain extra yards when it was unnecessary to do so and this is why the ball came out. i like hightower but you have to wonder what he was thinking about. at least it wasn’t nearly as bad as what the cowboys did last night as the first half was winding down. somebody should get fined big time for that and i don’t mean the ball carrier. one good thing i noticed during the hightower fumble…DA was trying very hard to recover the ball. that’s a good size. darren, i’ve only seen highlights of the game but i’m assuming our defence played well. how did porter and washington look to you?

  5. By Darren Urban on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    johnnyblue —

    They looked OK and Whisenhunt said he was pleased with both.

  6. By HyphenStandsUp on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    What I don’t understand(and correct me if I’m wrong; wife does it daily), is why didn’t the Cards have Anderson take a knee 3 times and punt if necessary? I thought the Rams only had 2 timeouts, could be wrong.

  7. By Darren Urban on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Hyphen —

    Because a first down ices the game. Let’s face it, if you can’t run to run out the clock, something is wrong.

  8. By brandon on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    he was running threw the line when they both happened… if anything he needs to cover up the ball in contact… but like he said… good and bad days.

  9. By Joe daddy on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Why does whiz give a pass to hightower? He’s got 7 fumbles in 18-19 games. thats what i call a trend. All his fumbles have been crucial too..fumbles always are crucial but everytime we start a game with some momentum the guy puts the rock on the ground. (indy game). Whiz has been way harder on beanie..the players have even been harder on beanie and he hasnt fumbled nearly as much as Hightower.

    How can he say “fumbling has never been a problem” haha are you kidding me? He’s not good enough to get away with putting the rock on the turf. If he was on any other team he would’ve been cut after the game.

  10. By blake on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    damn!!! CURSE OF THE CUP

  11. By kauaicardsfan on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Here’s an idea
    Let’s bring in Tiki Barber and have him work with Tim??? Cant hurt

  12. By MIKEG on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Hey Darren–nice blogs as always!! Hightower is fine!
    Whiz and the staff will work on him holding onto the ball just liked they worked with Wells and Warner. It’s unfortunate this occurred but Tim is a cog on this team and for people to say to bench him is just plain wrong. I’m sure ball security will be a topic in practice this week not only for the running backs but special teams as well. Fans seem to diss Tim and want Beanie as the starter but Tim is the better all around back right now. He recognizes defenses better and is the better blocker. Beanie has not proven he can be a durable and a dependable back for Whiz yet.I think toughness is an attribute that Whiz really values and that is why he favors Tim!!!!! That toughness attribute is also what he saw in Anderson
    over Leinert . Agree?????

  13. By Darren Urban on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    MikeG —

    Probably a fair point.

  14. By SeeingRed on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    I don’t think this will continue to be an issue. Since early last season both him and Beanie have improved in protecting the ball. TH’s first fumble was on him but he wasn’t exactly carrying it like a loaf of bread either (should/could have been held higher) and the second..just bad luck and timing and was a terrible call by the officials..he did however look like he was reaching forward instead of cradling the ball with both arms.. I think he will learn and move forward-I just hope people don’t harp on it and it becomes a self-fulfilling thing, u know?

    I like Whiz’s thinking on this..something that can’t be tolerated but not enough to overreact.

  15. By George on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    On Kerry Rhodes interception towards the end of the game, don’t you think he could have run it back for a touchdown? It seemed that there was nothing but green on the left side of the field, yet he decided to cut back towards the middle of the field. What are your thoughts on that?

  16. By Darren Urban on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    George —

    You’re not the first to suggest that. Although Kerry was clearly out of gas at the end.

  17. By Jesse Robles on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Not making excuses because we won the game, but I saw many missed calls by the refs, including the WIDE OPEN intentionally grounding call on bradford that was really bad. We got the W, but you can tell the refs were pulling for the Rams. All well, Bring on the FALCONS!!! Lets go Cards, tied for 1st in the NFC WEST!

  18. By MIKEG on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Hey Darren–Also— Tim has been here since Whiz was hired as coach. I believe he has scored a touchdown
    in 5 of the 6 playoff games the Cards have been involved in the last 2 years. Tim is a proven commodity as far as Whiz sees him—he has produced
    for him in the past and Whiz really values that. Don’t forget that Whisenhunt was a blue collar tight end as a player with Atlanta—and I believe he values a player like Tim because he is not some super gifted first rounder. Tim works hard and achieves his rewards mostly through hard work—and Whiz really likes that. Tim has been the heart and soul of this team the last 2 years!!!

  19. By Joe daddy on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    The only thing hightower does better then beanie is blitz pick-up. which is why he should be a third down back. Whiz hasnt given beanie the oppurtunity to prove himself in the regular season. Has beanie even had 20 carries in a game in his career as a cardinal?

  20. By Jesse Robles on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    BTW, weren’t Tim and Beanie supposed to have already fixed this problem? Not trying to be difficult because I love the Cards, but if Ken says,”I know who TIm is, he will fix it,” what is he going to do different this time that he didn’t do the previous times? He needs to do something because he is growing into a “fumbler,” sad to say but we have two growing “fumblers” and it definitely will cost some games if it doesn’t get fixed.

  21. By Steve on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Darren – I’m sorry but even though Tim has all the experience, is great at blitz-pick up, can catch out of the backfield etc… there needs to be a set of consequences for continuing to fumble the ball. And I think the easiest thing is for him to lose his starting job – even just for one week. Just on principle. If Beanie can go, start him, if he can’t start Jason Wright or LSH. Now sure he’ll get into the game in the 1st qtr and still play around as much as he always has, but again, noticeable action needs to be taken, even if it is just to make a point and then move on.
    At this point Hightower’s fumbling problem has eclipsed Beanie’s by a wide margin (though they both need to hold on much better). A point needs to be made by Whiz here. If anything requires disciple and action it is consistently turning the ball over. And over the past year, Hightower has been doing that more than anyone else on this team and it’s not even close.
    Sit him for the first series or two. It needs to happen. Enough is enough.

  22. By April on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    hey joe daddy tim is a great player lay off he owned up to the mistake he didnt hide from media and avoid them. he will be fine and beanie does fumbel too all will be fine I HAVE FAITH IN #34 GO TIM!!!!

  23. By April on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    oh and by the way tim only really had 1 fumble

  24. By cheesebeef on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Wiz favors Hightower because he’s “tougher”? That’s a joke IMO. A tough running back doesn’t put the ball on the ground in HUGE games on opening drives time after time after time (Minny and Indy at home and against the Giants and San Fran on the road last year to go along with another one to start the season and the “tough” running back SURE AS HELL doesn’t fumble on the VERY NEXT PLAY when the D has just made a huge play to salt away the game with 1:34 left. The idea that Hightower’s the “better all around back” is bunk as well. He’s not close to being the “running” back Beanie is, he fumbles MORE than Beanie does and he’s adequate in the passing game. He’s a mediocre all around back who has fumblitis. I mean, jeez… the guy fumbled the first snap of the entire season in the pre-season. I LOVE me some Wiz, but for a coach who preaches accountability, continuing to support a running back who has shown zero ability to value the football is complete contradiction to me,

  25. By Lone-Eagle on Sep 13, 2010 | Reply

    Hey Darren,
    I know this is what you may call beating a dead horse, but with all due respect, (being a Cardinals fan) I am also very much an Anquan Boldin fan, and don’t really care at this time. Q is eating up one of the best defences in the league, AFC side that is. (I think we have a pretty darned good defense as well, if not great) Q has over 100 yds recieveing and is looking great. The Cardinals should have ponied up the money and given him what he asked for, Which really wasn’t that much compared to wat fitz is making, and I am quite positive that when it’s time to re-sign Fitz, he is going to be paid handsomely!!! All Cardinal fans should keep a close eye on the Ravens and Q, because It would not surprise me one bit to see the Ravens in the Super-Bowl opposite the Cards, but only if the put in Max Hall. I really don’t believe that Anderson is the answer. I refuse to blame Sundays game on the health of Fitz!!

  26. By Mack on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    I have no doubt that Hightower can fix these issues =D.

    Darren, off topic, how about those Seahawks? Legitimate challenge for the Division?

  27. By Darren Urban on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Mack —

    They looked good Sunday. Check back with me in a month. With the whole league. Crazy things always happen early. The Cards were 1-2 after three games last year. They looked nothing like a team that would win 10 games and one in the playoffs.

  28. By ben on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    i dont care what anyone thinks when the team needed plays they got them, just the first win in the road to Arizona’s First SuperBowl GO CARDS

  29. By ben on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    I have an idea for all these guys who cant hang onto the ball, make them carry the ball to the bank with them when they cash there paychecks, maybe then they will be able to put some emphasis on not putting the ball on the ground

  30. By Ross on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply


    Good article as always. Do you expect Tim to be given another opportunity to carry the load with Beanie, or will it be similar to down the stretch last year when he was used sparingly in the run game after his fumblitis hit?

  31. By Darren Urban on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Ross —

    Beanie has to come back from the injury first.

  32. By Chris on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Everyone leave Hightower alone. Yes, he needs to hang on to the ball. But why do people hate him when he fumbles once and when Adrian Peterson does it 10 times a game on the goal line, no one says a word.

  33. By Scappoose Joe on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Look for good things, with Anderson at qb.

  34. By Boodwa on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    In Hightowers defense. I wouldn’t feel more comfortable with Beanie in the game at that moment either, that guy fumbles too! So has Jason Wright. The guy I’d like to see protecting the ball in situations like that would be the hyphen, he always covers the ball when he runs between the tackles. I think it is because he’s so small, it helps make him even more compact when he hits the holes. I think LaRod has only had 1 fumble in his career so far and I want to say that was on a return or a reception, not a rush.

  35. By Former Steeler Fan on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    “Because of who Tim is,” Whisenhunt added, “I have no concerns that we’ll get this fixed.”

    MIKEG wrote: “Whiz and the staff will work on him holding onto the ball just liked (sic) they worked with Wells and Warner.”


    Obviously, based on TH’s fumbles over the last two years, IT hasn’t been fixed.

    Start the Hypen!!!

    We may remember the Breaston strip of the fumble recovery as one of the plays that enabled the Cards to make the playoffs.

  36. By Ross on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply


    Is Beanie’s knee injury more serious than the cards are letting on?

  37. By Darren Urban on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Ross —

    A great question.

  38. By April on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    I agree chris peterson fumbles a lot at the goal line but people hate on Tim when he had 1 fumble in the game. All great RBs fumble and he only had 1. im sure
    Tim will work on it this week but people suggesting he shouldnt play is wrong. do they forget he also had a td in the game always focusing on the bad makes me mad

  39. By Ryan M on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    I frankly am sick of all the “right words” being said by Hightower and on sundays he doesn’t follow through.

    The words and game tape are out on you now Timmy, you can’t hang on to the ball and for the next 15 games defenders will be swiping and clubbing at that ball.

    Good luck with that Tim and your decision coach Whiz to keep him the starter…….

  40. By Former Steeler Fan on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Darren wrote: “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.”

    @ April: TH may have had one fumble in the Rams game, but Darren already wrote that TH has had NINE fumbles in two seasons (plus one game). “The bad” (turnovers) loses games quite often and disrupts drives.

  41. By tRiGiDy22 on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Hightower Hold that Bench cause if u let go u might Fall off!

  42. By Justin on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Mike G,

    If you are referring to the Pottsville (PA) team….

    #1 – The NFL gave us the trophy, why should we give it back?
    #2 – I think after the last Super Bowl, PA got their revenge

    No curse…just takes a long time to create a winning franchise!!

  43. By Justin on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    sorry…I meant Blake.

  44. By Dave W on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    I think Hightower will be fine and work hard on “holding on” he is a great guy and knows what it takes to do the job. 99% of us couldnt hang on to the ball with those guys ripping out or putting a helmet right on it. He will hold on this week….I have faith in him.

  45. By Joe daddy on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Wait did you just compare hightower to AP? Like i said. Hightower isnt good enough to put the ball on the ground. AP is good enough to let him work through it because the guy can flat out win you games by himself.

  46. By card62 on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Chris and April Are you really comparing Hightower to Peterson?
    Peterson fumbles too much and must improve this, but he also gains you 1,500 yards a year. Hightower is no Wells and he is definitely no Peterson, but he is a good hard nose football player who has to do everything right just to make a football team and have a job in the NFL. No excuses for Tim or Beanie do not fumble the ball especially on opening drives. We need both Tim and Beanie to make the playoffs and to make some noise in the playoffs.
    I want Beanie to start, but both to play and we need to see more Hypen in the game even if those two do not fumble again this season. Did you guys see the 5 running play drive we had? The best we looked all day. Hypen and Timmy. We are suppose to have this awesome OL that can run block with the best of the NFL so lets use 3 backs and run the ball on most teams. Hypen is not an every down back but is exciting and can take it to the house. Chargers were at their best when they had LT and used Sproles as change of pace.

    Lone Eagle – It was painful watching Boldin in purple. I do not think I can do it for 16 weeks. Q was by far the MVP for both offenses in the Ravens – Jets game. Have a great season Q we all wish you well.

    Go Cards beat Falcons!.

  47. By Scott H on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Can’t say it any better than Dockett did – the game should have been over with Rhodes’ interception. Instead, we all had to sweat it out ( against the damn Rams, for crying out loud ) because the fumble gave it right back. Against a better team, we probably lose the game. Against most teams, we SHOULD lose the game because that’s what happens when you turn the ball over. Timmy needs to do a better job, period.

  48. By Dre on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    I swear I read some of the most outrageous comments on this site. First of all turnovers happen, you hate to see them but it’s part of the game. The key is to get more then you give, keeping your defense off the field as much as possible.

    The issue with Hightower is he is a backup player playing starter….doing what ever he can to stay where he is at…thats where that work ethic stuff comes in. How does work ethic trump production, I don’t know. You see, Hightower doesn’t make that much money (i think about 400k a year) compared to the NFL, he’s smart and I give him an “E” for his efforts but the truth is he just don’t have a complete game to a starter. Beanie Wells is the better back and he should of been starting since late last year. This is an example of Whisenhut not working well with certain player personality types. Wells is a far better running back and it don’t take a rocket scientist to see whats up. My question is why did we take him in the first round and pay him first round money, I believe it is 2 million a year, if we weren’t going to start the best player. And don’t say it doesn’t matter as long as he gets his carries, it matters to all good athletes rather they start of not.

  49. By Landin on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    darren do u think beanie is gonna play sunday?

  50. By Darren Urban on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Landin —

    I think that’s the plan.

  51. By Brad ONeill on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    dre- the coach cant give timmie the money but he can give him the start. There are many reasons to do this. not the least of which is to help motivate beanie to become a complete back. one that can block, catch and run like the gifted athlete he is.

    Whiz loves using the start as a carrot. look how he kept lutui and toler on second string. and he wont give you the spot until you check off everything that needs to be checked on his list. beanie has a few check marks yet to go. when he gets them down he can have the start along with his huge check. for now he is content to be a great runner.

  52. By ross on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    As someone who is close to the situation, who do you think should be the starter, and why? Thanks.

  53. By Darren Urban on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Ross —

    RE: RB starter

    I don’t know enough about what each player does well and not well to make a judgment on my own. I know that Hightower must do a lot of things well to overcome his fumbling right now. I think Hyphen is too small to be an every-down back, and Beanie has been hurt.

  54. By cardattac on Sep 14, 2010 | Reply

    Ok mang… to all who think they can coach better then coach Whiz.

    HOW ABOUT YOU LET HIM DO THE COACHIN!!!! Cuz from where I sit…. He has a winning record as a head coach of the CARDINALS!!! I cant think of very many people that can say the same!!!

    We have all seen Tim put the rock on the ground. I am willing to bet had we lost the game do to that he just might be sitting for a min. Whiz wants to win and if he likes Tim to start, then so be it. That bein said I dont doubt for a sec if Tim jacks us again Whiz wont let it go on.

    Have faith guys. We are 1 and 0. Better then we could say this time last year.

    In Whiz I trust!! GO CARDS!!!

  55. By cardsalltheway on Sep 15, 2010 | Reply

    It’s the HELMET, he first needs to learn how to put on his helmet correctly. It came off at least two times in one quarter. Tim has too many distractions, his hair is the most important thing so he doesn’t tighten his darn helmet. Somebody has got to teach the guy that his hair is secondary. I think he doesn’t tighten his helmet because he is worried it might mess up or ruin his hair extensions.
    Tims priorities…
    1. Hair
    2. Helmet
    3. Football

  56. By Darren Urban on Sep 15, 2010 | Reply

    Cardsalltheway —

    RE: Helmet and Hightower

    God I hope you are joking. Because if you are serious …

  57. By Ryan M on Sep 15, 2010 | Reply


    I hear ya, Whiz frustrates me sometimes by not putting in the best player to get the majority of the reps.

    At least Whiz is starting Washington at LB this year so maybe he is swallowing some of that pride.

  58. By cardsalltheway on Sep 16, 2010 | Reply

    If I’m serious…What? Of course I might be exaggerating about his priorities, I certainly hope I’m wrong but the two times his helmet fell off in the first half he appeared to have gotten hit hard the first time but not the second which makes me believe he could tighten his helmet to prevent it from falling off. With his helmet squeezing his head tighter, maybe that would help Tim remember to squeeze the football tighter. I think that’s a good chin-strap plan, don’t you? Tim should walk around most days not only holding a football tight but with his helmet on super tight.
    I do think some players like their helmet to fall off so they can be seen, I hope Tim isn’t one of them. Tim and Cardinal fans don’t need distractions unless Tim is going for the simultaneous helmet on the ground and football on the ground to confuse the defense.
    On another note, I wonder why defensive players don’t pull the hair or extensions of runners like HIghtower and the Rams Steven Jackson to sometimes aid in tackling/whiplashing them. I think the hair is part of the uniform if I’m not mistaken.

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