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Hightower Looks To Rally

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Running back Tim Hightower gained just seven yards on seven carries against the Eagles Thanksgiving night in Philadelphia.

Tim Hightower's first start was a national attention-grabber: 109 yards rushing, against the backdrop of former starter Edgerrin James' first Did-Not-Play of his career.

Since then, however, Hightower has struggled. In the four games since that day in St. Louis, the rookie has 85 yards rushing on 42 carries, a disappointing 2.0-yard average. He acknowledged it is hard not to look to break a big play every time – which can lead to dancing in the backfield and ultimately, a loss in yardage.

"You have to understand your role and what we are trying to get accomplished," Hightower said. "When I was in there for short yardage (earlier this season), I wasn't going out there for a 30-yard run, I was going with an objective that 'This is what we need on this play.'

"Get what you can get first and the big runs will come later. I have to do it within the structure of the offense."

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he is still satisfied with Hightower's play and that any of the Cardinals' backs would have had trouble running in the context of the past few games.

The running game has not been effective overall, although the Rams visit Arizona Sunday – the same Rams that allowed the Cards their season-best 176 yards on the ground. It was the only time the Cards have run for more than 76 yards as a team in their past seven games.

"That's probably how they'll attack us," Rams coach Jim Haslett said.

Whisenhunt said it was impossible to know from week-to-week how a effective a defense would be, so his team would be prepared to throw often if needed. But Whisenhunt also noted that the Cards were at their most balance against the Rams, rushing 33 times and dropping back to pass 35.

Hightower, meanwhile, said he is learning as the season progresses of what he wants to correct. He insisted he hasn't lost confidence in himself or his ability.

"When I am running the ball, (I have to) not try to create too much on my own but just trust in the scheme, trust in the blocking, trust in the system," Hightower said. "Knowing (the linemen) are working hard like I am working hard, eventually we'll get this thing rolling."

WHY THE CHANGE IN PUNTERS

Not that it came as any surprise, but Whisenhunt said the main reason struggling punter Dirk Johnson stayed so long was because the Cardinals did not want to disrupt kicker Neil Rackers, for whom Johnson was holding. But Johnson's poor game in cold conditions in Philadelphia drove home to Whisenhunt the need to improve the team's punting.

The Cards signed Ben Graham Monday.

"I felt if we had a game on the East coast, with bad weather, (punting) is something that could really change the complexion of a game with field position," Whisenhunt said. "We have time to make sure Neil is comfortable and that we're not sacrificing anything there."

Rackers had trouble last year when his long-time holder, Scott Player, was somewhat surprisingly cut at the end of training camp. Whisenhunt said Rackers was more prepared for a change mentally this season, as well as Rackers being at the tryouts Monday. Both Rackers and Graham said the change should be smooth.

"I think we learned our lesson from that last year," Whisenhunt said.

INJURY UPDATE

Cornerback Rod Hood (ribs) returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday although two new Cards – center Lyle Sendlein (back) and wide receiver Anquan Boldin (back) – each were limited following the Eagles' game. Neither player is expected to miss the weekend, however.

Whisenhunt said linebacker Clark Haggans (foot) may be able to practice some Thursday, although Haggans, safety Matt Ware (facial surgery) and linebacker Pago Togafau (knee) all sat out. Safety Adrian Wilson was also limited with his sore shoulder.


Contact Darren Urban at askdarren@cardinals.nfl.net. Posted 12/3/08.

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