View Full Version : Chiefs Babb: Haley expects Charles and other Chiefs backs to improve their ball handling

Tribal Warfare
08-26-2009, 01:19 AM
Haley expects Charles and other Chiefs backs to improve their ball handling (http://www.kansascity.com/sports/chiefs/story/1406104.html)
The Kansas City Star

Jamaal Charles couldn’t explain it, either. There was no one around him during Friday’s preseason game at Minnesota, and no contact. He just tripped, fell and lost the football.

“A freak accident,” he said.

The problem for Charles, a Chiefs’ second-year running back, is that fumbles haven’t been a freak occurrence during his career, dating to his days at the University of Texas. A fumble during a 2007 game against Oklahoma did the Longhorns no favors against the Sooners, compelling former Texas running back Earl Campbell to work with Charles.

That’s been nearly two seasons ago, and Chiefs coach Todd Haley expects Charles — and all of Kansas City’s rushers — to improve their ball handling. Haley said players are made to run through the “gantlet,” a mechanism that simulates contact on ball carriers’ arms and shoulders. But there’s not much a coach can do when a running back just falls and loses control of the football.

“The worst thing a running back can do is fumble the ball,” Charles said. “He feels like his whole life is over.”

Haley didn’t say that, but he did say that the Chiefs cannot afford those kinds of mistakes, self-inflicted or otherwise. The coach said a point of emphasis now is to teach Kansas City’s backs to carry the ball in the arm that faces away from the nearest defender.

If a rusher breaks toward the right sideline, he should carry the ball with his right arm — until he tries to cut back toward the left, anyway. The idea is that the extra distance between the ball and the defense should prevent a defender from prying it out.

As if a running back doesn’t have enough to think about.

“There’s a way to hold a football,” Haley said, “and there are a lot of ways to not hold it. But there’s really one way to hold a football correctly, and you’ve got to coach it properly to make them understand. … You’ve got to teach it, and then you’ve got to stay after it all the time.

“That’s a little thing that becomes a big thing.”

Doesn’t Charles know it. He said a quick way for a running back to soil his reputation is to fumble too often. For now, Haley is being patient with the young rusher, sending Charles back in Friday night on the first offensive play after his fumble. Haley said Charles executed better technique on that 3-yard run, and he passed a big test when, later in the first quarter, Charles caught a pass and went 20 yards before being pushed out of bounds.

“When I do hold on to the ball,” he said, “I can make a big play.”

Reserve running back Jackie Battle did something similar Friday. He fumbled, too, admitting later that he was carrying the ball with the wrong arm. Battle is a third-year pro, and he has learned that confidence is as important as anything when fumbles become a concern. Battle said that the 22-year-old Charles cannot fixate on his mistakes, particularly when he emerged this offseason as a valuable change-of-pace runner to Larry Johnson.

“He’s got to build his confidence back up,” Battle said. “He’s been a little down on himself.

“Whenever you do start fumbling and it is on your mind, you don’t run with 100 percent confidence. You think about it, but you try not to think about it. It’s tough.”

Battle said part of the difficulty of making the in-run transition, moving the ball from one arm to the other, is that the ball is never more vulnerable than when it’s being shifted. Still, Battle acknowledged that it’s an essential lesson for the Chiefs to learn.

“You can have it as tight as you want,” he said, “and you expose it to the defense and they hit it on the right spot, it’s going to come out.”

Haley has said often this preseason that he wants to build a team with consistent players. He compares the wrong kind of players to a yo-yo, and the coach has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with men who are up one moment and down the next. On Friday, that description fit Charles — even if he did redeem himself with the long reception and a solid kickoff return. Partially, anyway.

“To me, whatever else you do positive,” Haley said, “that’s probably going to hurt your chances to win.”

Charles said he’ll learn. He said he certainly won’t forget.

“I don’t think that’ll probably happen to me anytime again,” he said. “I fumbled the ball. Like Coach said, you’ve got to move on.

“I’ve got to hold on like it’s my paycheck.”

08-26-2009, 01:21 AM