The Arizona Cardinals appeared to almost give running back Tim Hightower to the Washington Redskins on July 31 – accepting backup defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday and a conditional late-round draft pack – for the fourth-year pro, who is now Washington’s starter.

But Cardinals Coach Ken Whisenhunt said the decision wasn’t made lightly, and that he expects Hightower to have a productive career with Washington.

“He’s a good football player. It was not an easy decision to trade him,” Whisenhunt said in a conference call Wednesday evening. “But in order to be fair to Tim and to give him the opportunity to be a starter, based on what we had projected him in what his role would be here, we thought it was a good move for both teams. You never want to allow one of your good players to leave your team, but I have so much respect for Tim, and I know he wanted the chance to be ‘The Guy’ and have the opportunity to do that, so part of that was giving him that opportunity.”

Hightower is pleased to now be playing – and starting – for the Redskins, the team that he grew up cheering for while growing up in the D.C. area. During the preseason, he shined for Washington, averaging 6.8 yards per carry and scoring touchdowns on runs of 58 and 37 yards. Last Sunday, he carried the ball 25 times for 72 yards and a touchdown and was on the field for all but two offensive plays. But Hightower says he never understood why the Cardinals didn’t value him as an every-down back.

“For whatever reason, that kinda is how it is sometimes in this league. One guy fits a scheme a certain way and another guy doesn’t,” Hightower said. “My role there was what it was supposed to be. I fit for what they needed me to do, and that’s the place they had for me. I just felt like I wanted my role to be a little different.”

During his three seasons in Arizona, the University of Richmond product averaged 3.9 yards per carry and racked up 23 rushing touchdowns but never received more than 153 carries in a season while starting 36 of the 48 games he appeared in. (Hightower’s career-high 153 carries ranked 35th among running backs last season.)

Whisenhunt declined to say what it was that kept Hightower from having a larger role in the Cardinals’ offense. But he said the decision had more to do with the other running backs on the team than it did with Hightower.

“I think as far as looking at the backs we had – Beanie [Wells] and having just drafted Ryan Williams – where we felt he fit, where we saw him on our football team, it was going to be different than what it would be with another team, and he certainly has verified that by coming to Washington and becoming the starter. So I’m happy for him. Just a situation that we felt at the time was beneficial for both teams.”

When asked what contributions Holliday was making to the Cardinals, Whisenhunt said: “Good leadership and consistent, steady play. I’m very happy to have him and he’s a good veteran, especially with the young defensive linemen that we have. I think he’s done a very good job in that role.”