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By then, the Cardinals had drafted Chris “Beanie” Wells 31st overall. Then in April, they selected Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams. Hightower had become expendable.

“You never want to allow one of your good players to leave your team, but I have so much respect for Tim and what he did for us and I care about Tim,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said, putting it as diplomatically as possible. “I know that he wanted to be the guy and have an opportunity to do that. Part of it was giving him that opportunity.”

Arizona dealt him to Washington for 35-year-old defensive end Vonnie Holliday and a late 2012 draft pick, the NFL equivalent of a Blue Light Special.

“I’m glad it happened,” Hightower said. This was the fresh start he wanted, and he took advantage by averaging 6.8 yards per carry during the preseason and earning the starting spot.

Now he’s back in the area in which he grew up. He signed a restricted free-agent tender this summer, so he’s under contract only until the end of this season. But this is a long-term project for Hightower.

His new purpose is to help restore the Redskins‘ good name, and the next step is beating his old team.

“Every once in a while it’ll cross my mind just the fact that I’m back here living a childhood dream,” Hightower said. “But I’m not thinking about, why did it happen? I’m thinking about the opportunities moving forward.”