To fix fumble problem, Eagles' Vick first must admit he has one

Posted: October 10, 2012

Whether it is defiance or delusion, Michael Vick's approach to his fumbling problems seems unrealistic. After he twice lost fumbles in a 16-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Eagles quarterback said Sunday that he has "never really had a problem fumbling the football."

This could be an attempt to alter the narrative, except when facts get in the way. Vick has eight fumbles (five lost) this season and 84 fumbles (39 lost) in his career - more than any player now in the NFL.

The NFL's career leader in fumbles is Brett Favre, whose 166 fumbles came over 302 games. That's 0.55 fumbles per game. Vick's 84 fumbles have come over 116 games, so he's averaging 0.72 fumbles per game, which is more than Favre.

It's also more than Donovan McNabb, who averaged 0.57 fumbles per game and Randall Cunningham, who averaged 0.65 fumbles per game, which means that Vick fumbles at a greater rate than two of his scrambling predecessors.

"There's nobody more competitive than this guy, and he knows that he can't fumble," coach Andy Reid said Monday. "Nobody knows it better than the player, and he doesn't want to go out there and do those things. But we've got to go back and we've got to work on ball security. He understands that, and we'll do that, and we'll get it fixed."

But the question is: How? Listen to Vick after games when turnovers are an issue, and he will recite the problems with committing turnovers. Listen to him during the week, and he will recite the importance of reducing turnovers. Yet for roughly three hours on Sundays, the message is not applied on the field.

The same can be said about the coaching staff. Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have emphasized eliminating turnovers at different points of the season. On Monday, Reid's response was similar to what he had said many times before.

"You continue to emphasize it in practice," Reid said. "That's what you do. And as a player, you make it happen. You have to make sure you keep the ball high and tight and that you cover it in traffic. When things are live and they are going fast in the game, you make sure you go back to those fundamentals to get it taken care of."

The "high-and-tight" mantra often is discussed when it comes to fumbles - especially among running backs. When Tom Coughlin became the coach of the New York Giants, Tiki Barber was coming off consecutive nine-fumble seasons. Coughlin wanted Barber to grip the ball "high and tight," and Barber's fumbles dramatically decreased during the rest of his career.

In his weekly USA Today column on Monday, Barber wrote that "turnover issues don't fix themselves," called Vick the Eagles' "biggest liability," and suggested that Reid should bench Vick.

Fumbling is different for running backs than it is for quarterbacks - even running quarterbacks - and Vick has habits that he cannot seem to break. The Vick discussion in Philadelphia was once talk-radio fodder in Atlanta.

When Vick reduced his fumbles from 16 (with seven lost) in 2004 to 11 (with five lost) in 2005, Falcons offensive coordinator Greg Knapp told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "There was a big improvement in ball security."

Seven seasons later, though, the ball security still needs major improvement. Reid even looked at whether the protective equipment Vick wears over his ribs hinders the quarterback's ability to secure the football. The coach shot down that theory. Reid also said that he would not call the game differently because of Vick's fumbling issues.

He compared Vick's fixing the fumble issue to Vick's fixing the interception problem that hurt him in the season's first two weeks. In the last three games, Vick has not thrown an interception. Of course, Vick has fumbled throughout his career at an abnormally high rate while his interception rate often has not been an issue.

So the Eagles' hope is that Vick can fix the problem. That could start with Vick's acknowledging that he has a problem in the first place. After Sunday's game, he did not do that.

"I've got trust that he'll get this thing right," Reid said. "He'll make good decisions there. That's part of the game. He's got to take care of it. He knows it."

Notes. The Eagles are expected to have all players on the 53-man roster available for Wednesday's practice. Running back Bryce Brown (shoulder strain) and linebacker Mychal Kendricks (slight ankle sprain) were injured Sunday, but both returned to the game and have no issues. . . . Reid said punter Mat McBriar is better than what he showed Sunday (four punts for a 44.0-yard average), but the coach put the veteran on notice. "It's important that he does a better job there," Reid said. . . . Guard Evan Mathis has been taking snaps at center to possibly be used in an emergency at the position, Reid said.

Follow the Bouncing Ball

Here is how Michael Vick stacks up fumbling the ball:

Year      Team           Games            Fumbles Fumbles lost

2001       Falcons           8           6                5

2002       Falcons           15              9                6

2003       Falcons           5              4                1

2004       Falcons           15             16                7

2005       Falcons           15             11                5

2006       Falcons           16              9                3

2009       Eagles           12              0                0

2010       Eagles           12             11                3

2011       Eagles           13             10                4

2012       Eagles           5              8                5

Career                   116             84                39

NFL career fumbles leaders

Player                          Fumbles        Years played

1. Brett Favre                      166             1991-2010

12. Randall Cunningham          105             1985-2001

18. Donovan McNabb              85             1999-2011

24. Michael Vick                    84             2001-2021

(tied with three others)

NFL single-game fumbles leaders

5 fumbles

Warren Moon. Houston Oilers vs. Kansas City Chiefs, Jan. 16, 1994.

Josh Johnson. Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers, Oct. 18, 2009.

4 fumbles

Michael Vick. Eagles vs. Chicago Bears, Nov. 28, 2010.

(tied with nine others)


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