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To Have And Have Not

Posted Dec 17, 2009

Cardinals working on fumbling issues but believe it can be fixed

Running back Beanie Wells clutches the ball tight during a run against the 49ers Monday night.
 
 
Larry Fitzgerald went through a stretch where he lost three fumbles in four games back in early 2007.

Those are the only three lost fumbles of Fitzgerald’s nearly six full seasons.

“Man, that’s the worse feeling,” Fitzgerald said. “You feel everyone’s eyes are on you, and really they are. You’re the guy that’s to blame, and it’s a terrible feeling. I’ve experienced it before and I’d rather not feel it again.”

The Cards know about terrible feelings of late. They lost five fumbles in San Francisco, with two coming from their top two running backs, Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. Isolated and they could be shrugged off. But they haven’t been isolated – Hightower, for example, fumbled early against both Minnesota and San Francisco the past two games, with each leading to opposing touchdowns.

Both players continue to work on the issue. But there isn’t anything specific to do, other than not let it happen. Niners safety Dashon Goldson forced the fumbles on both players, getting his helmet on the ball, and one Bay-area paper said Goldson played “the game of his life.”

Sometimes, the other guys make a play, Hightower acknowledged. And then he said it can’t matter.

“One time, OK, two times, maybe,” Hightower said. “But in my case it’s I don’t know how many times it’s been, especially when it is two games in a row and your team is counting on you in big games. You have to find a way. I don’t care if there is a great hit on it, I have to find a way. That’s my team. That’s what they count on me to do.”

Wells was having a better game, with Hightower failing to get a carry after his fumble on his second rushing attempt. Wells’ performance was going to be likely his best of the season and almost brought the Cards improbably back – “I was excited” with the workload, he said – until he too lost the ball.

“It was devastating,” Wells said.

Hightower has four lost fumbles this season. Wells officially has just two, but also dropped a pitch play in St. Louis that resulted in a change of possession. The Cardinals have lost 15 fumbles total, while recovering just six from the opposition.

Remarkably, the Cardinals are a minus-eight in turnover ratio this season, a number unheard of for a team 8-5 and leading its division (the Lions, whom the Cards play this weekend, are minus-11 and have a 2-11 record).

But it also shows how games can skew the numbers. The Cardinals were a minus-five in San Francisco and ended up as a minus-six in a loss to Carolina earlier this season.

“I don’t feel it’s been a problem (overall),” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I think we are a good enough team to overcome (turnovers) a lot of the times. But when you have seven … when we go the bad way, we go way overboard.”

Whisenhunt said a fine line must be walked between making too big a deal out of the fumbles and simply brushing off the issue. As usual, the Cards are working on securing the ball again this week, but that has been the case all season.

Wells said all the backs can do is learn and move on.

“You can’t go back,” Wells said, “and hold on to the ball tighter than you were.”

EXTRA POINTS

Kicker Neil Rackers said he originally hurt his groin before the game in St. Louis and was hoping he could deal with it. Instead, it ended up tearing a bit more in San Francisco, sending him to the sideline. Rackers said a week or two of rest should heal him. In the meantime, Mike Nugent will take kicking duties. …

Whisenhunt said there was nothing new with tackle Mike Gandy (pelvis), who did not practice again today. Jeremy Bridges is expected to start in Gandy’s place. …

Fitzgerald said he was feeling better on his bad knee, although he remained limited. ...
 
Lions star wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) missed practice Thursday and his status for Sunday remains unknown. 
 
 
 

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