NFC West: Ernie Nevers
The Cardinals, having used a 2011 second-round draft choice for running back Ryan Williams, were trading Hightower to the Washington Redskins. Hightower will naturally have extra incentive to play well when his former team visits FedEx Field in Week 2, but not out of vengeance.
"In this business, I’ve seen a lot of things take place, and there weren’t any bitter feelings," Hightower told reporters Wednesday. "It wasn’t anything negative. I have nothing but a great deal of respect for Arizona. I have a lot of good memories with Arizona."
Hightower grew up in Alexandria, Va., and went to Episcopal High School there. He also played at the University of Richmond.
"A lot of thoughts and emotions -- excitement, some sadness, just a lot of emotions all at once," Hightower said of his mindset following the trade.
The 10 rushing touchdowns Hightower scored during the Cardinals' 2008 Super Bowl season were the most since Donny Anderson finished the 1973 season with 10. Johnny Roland had 10 for the Cardinals' 1967 team. Lane MacArthur, Ernie Nevers and John David Crow are the only players in franchise history with more than 10 in one season. Seasons were shorter when they played.
Arizona might have held onto Hightower had the team known Williams would suffer a season-ending knee injury during preseason. The timing worked out well for Hightower, however, because he got the trade news before showing up for camp. That was important to him because it spared Hightower from committing fully for another season, then abruptly withdrawing.
Beanie Wells carried 18 times for 90 yards and a touchdown for the Cardinals during their opening-week victory over Carolina. That was the second-highest total for Wells' career. He rushed for 110 yards against Detroit as a rookie in 2009.
"There was a lot of hype around him coming in to replace me, us splitting roles, being at each other's throats and kind of divided," Hightower said. "But it actually ended up being a close relationship, one of the closest relationships that I’ve had to this day. I learned a lot from Beanie, and I feel like he learned a lot from me. We challenged each other, we pushed each other, and I think he made me a better player."
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Feely, who reveals why he has worn gloves despite playing the game largely with his feet. Feely: "Yeah, I can stop getting all those questions from people about why I wear the gloves," said Feely, who also booted five field goals to help the Cardinals snap a seven-game skid and beat the Denver Broncos 43-13 at University of Phoenix Stadium. If you have the fake and you want gloves on to handle the ball, you don't want to tip them off by putting them on. It's for tackles as well as onside kicks, and it looks kind of cool, too."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals weren't overly excited following their victory Sunday. But they were happy. Fullback Jason Wright: "It's like you've been holding your breath for two months."
Also from Somers, with McManaman: Larry Fitzgerald set two team records Sunday.
More from Somers: He used ESPN.com's Playoff Machine to find at least one way Arizona could still earn a playoff berth. Somers: "The Cardinals can go to the playoffs if they win out, the 49ers go 1-2 and Seattle and St. Louis lose their next two and then tie in their season finale. That way Arizona would be 7-9. Seattle and St. Louis would be 6-9-1 and the 49ers would be 6-10. It doesn't look like Arizona could win any tiebreakers within the division."
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says rookie quarterback John Skelton provided a spark for the Cardinals. Bickley: "Ken Whisenhunt is notorious for practicing tough love with his quarterbacks. He wouldn't even declare Skelton his starter for next week's game at Carolina. But in this case, I'm going to credit the player, not the coaches. Skelton is the first Fordham quarterback to take a snap in a NFL game since 1941, and yet he handled the moment with great maturity. He had no trouble falling asleep Saturday night, dozing off while watching a documentary on Vince Lombardi. And when the big moment arrived Sunday, television cameras caught him whistling on the sideline." I'm going to exercise restraint on this one. Max Hall's fearless demeanor helped spark Arizona to victory over New Orleans earlier this season. It's unrealistic to expect sustained success from most rookie quarterbacks.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Feely was enjoying a Pro Bowl-caliber year before Sunday. Perhaps this performance will help him get noticed.
Also from Urban: a closer look at Feely's touchdown run.
More from Urban: Skelton showed some steadiness. Urban: "Even-keeled is a phrase made for Skelton, and if the Cardinals learned anything Sunday, it was that Skelton would carry that personality into games. His first start ended in a 43-13 victory over the Broncos, and while Skelton wasn’t the reason for the win, he wasn’t doing anything to lose it either, and that was enough. He didn’t throw an interception. He didn’t blink at the end of the first half when center Lyle Sendlein’s thumb problems caused two straight botched shotgun snaps. He didn’t flinch when, in his first four pass attempts -- all incompletions -- he watched Fitzgerald, receiver Steve Breaston and running back Jason Wright make drops."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Jay Cutler would have been "all wrong" for the 49ers. Cohn: "He is not a winner, has a losing career record: 17-20. Did you know that? You don't build a winner around a loser. He has a big mouth and he sulks. He has a reputation for being undisciplined and for coming unglued precisely when a quarterback is supposed to stay glued. Say what you will about [Shaun] Hill's limitations, he is supremely poised -- poise is his main virtue. The Broncos gave up on Cutler precisely because he's immature bordering on goofy and unstable."
David Fucillo of Niners Nation wonders if Dashon Goldson will stay healthy long enough to realize his potential as the 49ers' free safety.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with the Cardinals' cheerleading tryouts because, hey, someone has to do it. This handy photo gallery is probably setting an NFC West offseason record for page views.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 looks at some of the greatest fullbacks in Cardinals history. Ernie Nevers, Ollie Matson, Jim Otis and Larry Centers are part of the conversation.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams made a smart move in signing Kyle Boller as a backup quarterback. Looking ahead to the draft, Miklasz sees evidence the Rams will select an offensive tackle with the No. 2 overall choice. At the same time, can they really go into the season with Keenan Burton as a starting receiver?
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Boller's deal with the Rams, initially reported as a two-year contract, is really for one season.
Turf Show Times' Tackle Box examines the Rams' running backs while looking at available free agents and potential late-round draft prospects. The conclusion? "So, at this point, I really want the Rams to take a strong and long look at Warrick Dunn. I think with him in the fold, the Rams' offense becomes absolutely powerful. Plus, adding him takes away from our lack of experience at the WR position since you'd have the possibility of Steven Jackson, Warrick Dunn, and Randy McMichael running routes which would definitely keep defenses honest and should free up Donnie Avery deep."
Dan Arkush of Pro Football Weekly says Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn is "very excited" about the team's versatility at defensive tackle. Arkush echoes the general feeling that Seattle will not seriously consider a defensive tackle with the fourth overall choice in the draft. The Seahawks have not drafted a defensive tackle among the top 20 overall choices since selecting Sam Adams eighth in 1994. The team has drafted five defensive linemen in the top 10: Steve Niehaus (1976), Jacob Green (1980), Jeff Bryant (1982), Cortez Kennedy (1990) and Adams. All but Niehaus played in at least 167 regular-season NFL games.