Tim Hightower is the Washington Redskins’ starting running back for the time being and boasts plenty of talent. But his main problem is his tendency to fumble the football.
In the last three seasons, Hightower has rushed for 23 touchdowns. Last season, he averaged a career-best 4.8 yards a carry while also proving himself to be reliable in pass protection.
But he also has 12 fumbles over his career. His five fumbles last season put him among the top five in that category amont NFL backs.
Since taking the field in training camp for the Redskins last Thursday, Hightower has coughed up the ball in four of his five practices. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said a couple of the fumbles are the result of Hightower and the quarterbacks having to get used to one another on handoffs. But others have come after Hightower crosses the line of scrimmage.
Still, the coach says he isn’t concerned.
“We’ll just keep on practicing it,” Shanahan said, “having people try to strip the ball. Hopefully that will eliminate that problem.”
Hightower believes the best thing for him is not to dwell on the fumbles.
“I focus on playing football and being a running back,” Hightower says. “A running back is about playing with instinct. You know what you’re doing, and from there it’s instinct and you play 110 miles per hour, and you just play football. That’s when you succeed.
“From a running back’s perspective, it’s easy to say, ‘OK, you’ve got to think about ball security.’ But as soon as you focus on that, your brain can’t focus on three things at one time. Your mind can’t focus on ball security, and run, and cut. It has to be a feel thing.”
Hightower said he did find himself worrying about fumbling early in his career, but it diminished his effectiveness. Looking back, he thinks having to rebound from fumbles has made him stronger.
“I’m actually fortunate that I had those fumbles early on,” Hightower says. “A lot of people would say, ‘Oh, if you hadn’t had those fumbles, you’d be in a different position.’ But I don’t know. I embrace adversity as a teaching lesson. It’s taught me how to observe, it’s taught me how to respond. It taught me how to overcome things and how to stay focused. It’s great to have 100 yards a game. But when you put the ball on the ground, and feel like you let the team down, how do you respond now?”