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Running In Place?

Posted Oct 27, 2010

Hightower fumbles means more Beanie ball as Wells named starter

After a week of waiting, running back Beanie Wells was named starter Friday by coach Ken Whisenhunt.


UPDATE: Whisenhunt announced Friday that Beanie Wells will indeed get his first NFL start for Sunday's game against Tampa, although Hightower will remain in a significant role.

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After the Cardinals had beaten the Saints a couple weeks ago, running back Beanie Wells walked off the field wearing a wide smile.

He wasn’t that productive – only 35 yards rushing – but he had a career-high 20 carries, something that “made me feel real good.”

“I didn’t rush the ball that well but we won the game,” Wells said Wednesday. “We were able to play clock management with those guys. I definitely feel comfortable when I am a high-carry guy.

“Without a doubt, you get in a rhythm. Any running back across the league will tell you that, you need carries to get in a rhythm, get a feel for the game.”

Maybe Wells will have more chances for his beloved rhythm. Nothing has changed for the Cardinals at running back. Coach Ken Whisenhunt made no announcements on a move in the depth chart Wednesday, although he said for a second time that an issue like running back Tim Hightower’s fumbling will “curtail” playing time.

“That’s where we are as a team,” Whisenhunt said. “We in the past have been able to overcome some of those things, but right now, something has to change.”

Already, Wells has been getting more carries than Hightower. That happened again in Seattle, although it might not have had Hightower not lost the ball. Hightower had 59 yards on six carries when he lost his grip, and didn’t get another carry the rest of the game.

Hightower said Wednesday he is working on the problem and is moving forward. What his role will be, however, is to be determined.

Hightower was encouraged by his running in Seattle, but admittedly, only so much positive can come after the way it ended for him.

“I am always taking full responsibility for my actions, and you look at it and think, ‘What ifs, what ifs, what ifs,’ ” Hightower said. “At the end of the day, if you are constantly asking yourself ‘What if,’ you’re probably not in too good of shape.”

Wells missed the first two games of the season after needing a meniscus repair of his right knee. He has 53 carries in four games – one more than Hightower, who has played in all six – for 183 yards and scored his first touchdown of the season in Seattle. Hightower is averaging 5.7 yards per rush (298 yards on 52 carries) but has already lost three fumbles, all coming at crucial times.

Wells, who had 54 yards on 14 carries in Seattle, said the Cards would go after the Buccaneers Sunday with running back “by committee.” That wouldn’t be a change for Whisenhunt, who has repeated himself often his affection for using multiple backs.

Wells wouldn’t mind being at the top of the pile more often, however. That much is clear. When the subject came up of the NFL trend of teams using multiple backs, Wells interrupted.

“I’ve been seeing this year a lot of guys getting a high amount of carries, so we can’t say that this year,” He said. “I can only think of a few teams this year, because a lot of guys are getting the rock (a lot).”

Whisenhunt said running the ball – not necessarily who is running it – is the most important part of the discussion for the Cardinals.

Whisenhunt emphasized “I’m not pointing the finger just at Tim” when talking about cleaning up turnovers and losing playing time, because the Cards can’t afford any turnovers. There is also little question that however the two backs are used going forward, both are definitely still going to be used – it’s not like Whisenhunt would go to Wells and let Hightower collect dust on the bench.

“That’s why you have two backs and that’s why you are excited about both backs,” Whisenhunt said. “There are things each guy does well. That’s life in the NFL. There are things Steve (Breaston) does well and Larry (Fitzgerald) does well (at receiver).”

Hightower said he hasn’t lost any confidence and is trying to move forward quickly, which is always his philosophy. “You can be a hero one day and be stoned the next day,” he said in noting the need to focus on the next game.

And if he were to lose his starting job? Hightower doesn’t want it to happen, but – as with most subjects – said he would be philosophical in his emotion.

“It’s like you’re a man who is protecting your family, and if something happens, you’re going to take that personally, thinking ‘I didn’t do my job,’ ” Hightower said. “It’s not a matter of me saying, ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m no longer this.’ I don’t think a title defines who I am. But it’s a matter of taking pride in what you do. You work hard all offseason, you train and that’s what you do.

“I’m a running back. When I step into this locker room, (You think) ‘I am a running back, I am the starting running back.’ Or ‘I was.’ When that’s not the case, you think ‘I let something get away from me. I didn’t protect what was mine and I have to find a way to get back to where I want to be.’ ”
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