Packers running backs in a fumble-free zone
Sunday, January 10, 2010
LaCrosse Tribune

Before you read one more word, knock on wood. Find a rabbit's foot. Throw a horseshoe, put on the charm bracelet, roll the die until you get seven. If you're lucky enough to live in a place where there might be a four-leaf clover, look for it.

Or, never mention this to anyone, the way the catcher doesn't talk to the pitcher if there's a no-hitter in the making.

Those should be enough spoiler alerts for the Green Bay Packers fans who don't want to know and don't want any jinxes. But this must be noted as the Packers head in to the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs at Arizona:

The Packers' running backs haven't had a fumble on a carry all season long.

Not Ryan Grant. Not Ahman Green. Not Brandon Jackson.

Furthermore, Green is No. 1 in the NFL with a fumble-free streak of 393 carries.

Grant is No. 2 with 291.

Six hundred and eighty-four carries with that ball tucked in their arms like a newborn child.

"Well, it was one of my goals this year," said Grant. "I don't think it's unrealistic; evidently it's not!"

The perfect streak starts at the top.

"It just speaks volumes about the system and the coaches and how they want things run," Jackson said. "And the players for taking good coaching and how to secure the ball."

Running backs coach Edgar Bennett has harped on cutting out the fumbles. After all, in his eight-year playing career, he only lost six fumbles in 1,115 carries. That's about 1 in 186 carries or roughly one-half of 1 percent. It happened even rarer than once in a blue moon.

The running backs then adopted the pursuit of a fumble-free season. The only tiny blemish - and Grant makes a face at this, believe it or not - was a fumble by Grant in Week 2 on a pass play. Otherwise, it's been a complete non-issue.

And it was not a topic of conversation among the backs.

"It really wasn't talked about until last week (in the season finale at Arizona)," said Jackson. " ‘EB' was telling us we didn't have any fumbles and it was during the game, you know four minutes left, he's just like, ‘You know what to do, you know what to do!'

"You don't talk about it because once you start talking about it, it's in your head and you try to do too much and it comes out. But we always emphasize two hands on the ball all during the game."

The Packers have faced several teams like their own defense, with opponents trying to punch, pry and strip the ball loose from their grip. The most recent was Week 15 against Seattle.

"Even on the ground, we're already down and they're punching at your ribs, punching at the ball trying to strip it," said Jackson.

But the Packers held on. And if there's a trade secret, a practice technique, a hypnosis method the Packers employ to eliminate the fumbles, they won't reveal it.

"We just focus on ball security," said Grant. "It's an emphasis on this offense. We take a lot of pride drill-wise and stuff like that. I just think it's the emphasis. It's focus. You can't run without the ball, so it's our No. 1 priority."

Grant walked away with the kind of grin someone has when they know something you don't.

And then he wrapped a few knuckles on the wood door frame in case it might have a little to do with luck, too.

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