You know it's not a good thing for an NFL player when the first thing associated with you is fumbles; yet this week, that is exactly the case for New York Giants running back David Wilson, who coughed up two fumbles in this past Sunday's 36-31 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and earned him a spot on the bench during the 3rd quarter of the game.
Because of the fumbling issues, his starting status for Sunday is in serious jeopardy, especially since now the Giants brought back an old familiar name on Tuesday with the re-signing of veteran running back Brandon Jacobs; Tom Coughlin wouldn't commit to Wilson being the starter earlier this week at the team's practice.
But if there is one person who can understand what Wilson is going through, it's former Giants running back Tiki Barber, who like Wilson, went through a serious fumbling case himself early on in his career. From 2000-2003, Barber had 35 fumbles in that stretch and while he was the team's best player, something needed to change because he could have cost the Giants a lot of games if that trend continued. Then in 2004 after Jim Fassel was relieved of his coaching duties and Coughlin was brought in, he had a very clear message for Barber with regards to his fumbling issues.
"He said to me, 'If you're going to put the ball on the ground, you're not going to play,' " Barber said.
Barber got the message loud and clear, as he changed the way he held the football and went about attacking holes on the field. Barber went with the "high and tight" way of carrying the ball, which gave him a better handle on it and less opportunity of it being put on the ground, and the results showed.
"I held it like that everywhere," Barber said. "I even do it now sometimes. I can't help but put it there in front of me. It became second nature. I even have to tell my kids, 'If you're going to carry the ball, you have to carry it like this. I'd run through the contact in a compact way," he said. "It allowed me to run through tackles better. My feet were close together, and I was more balanced. The unintended consequence of carrying the ball like that is that I became a more powerful runner."
After Coughlin got to New York, in Barber's three remaining seasons with the team, he only fumbled nine times with the most being five in 2004, which showed that Coughlin's advice and coaching techniques worked wonders for Barber. Now Barber is using what he learned from Coughlin and has already reached out to Wilson, as Tom Rock from Newsday reported, and putting Barber's advice to work on the field.
"He gave me some advice I can really use," Wilson said. "It makes sense. It felt good in practice, so I plan on using it."
Wilson is very smart to take Barber's advice because in those last three seasons with Coughlin helping him with his issues, Barber had his best seasons as a professional; rushing for 5,040 yards and 27 touchdowns. Despite the early struggles, Barber told Rock that he still sees a ton of upside for the former first-round pick of the Giants.
"I just gave him some encouragement, and hopefully he takes it," Barber said. "He can be special. This is the one thing that's hanging him up right now, and he can't let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy that gets him discouraged. I think he has a great attitude, and if he can figure it out — and I think he will — he has all the athletic ability to be a special player."
Not only will Wilson be getting help from Barber's advice, but the signing Jacobs was also done to provide another veteran presence at the position and be a mentor for Wilson, especially since Jacobs has never had a serious fumbling issue in his career and can help him with that, along with working on his pass-blocking abilities.
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