Beanie Wells is working to avoid fumbles like this one in the future.
All it took was a mention of Darnell Jefferson.
Running back Jason Wright laughed when he heard the name. Adrian Wilson smiled. The subject was Beanie Wells, and of course, Jefferson was a parallel.
Jefferson isn't real. He's a fictional college football player, played by Omar Epps in the 1993 movie "The Program." In the movie, Jefferson fumbles too much, to the point where the coach makes him carry around a football all the time. In one scene, Jefferson is sitting in a lecture class, his grip loosens, and a teammate jumps up to knock the ball away. In the middle of class, a handful of players all leap to "recover" the ball. Could that happen to Wells sitting in a meeting? Coach Ken Whisenhunt did say Monday that he was going to have Wells tote a ball around all week after he fumbled twice in Jacksonville.
"You never know what we're gonna do," Wilson deadpanned. "We know where he's staying, we have his address. All we have to do now is get a key made."
Wells better hang on to the ball. The rumor is that every time it hits the ground this week, Beanie has to put $200 into a pot that will eventually go to charity, all while hopefully teaching a lesson.
"If everyone else is going for him, we'll have his back," Wright said. "We'll protect him -- 'Beanie, look out!' "
It's a subject that can generate a smile now, both from players or Whisenhunt. That's what happens when the fumbles don't cost you a game. But it is a serious subject, one the Cardinals want to solve before it does harm them. That's why Wilson took a ball during the game Sunday, after Wells' second fumble, and wrote "Beanie" on it before handing it to the rookie. The message was clear. There was a reason, with the clock winding down and a victory locked, Wells sat on the bench with his helmet still on and the ball tucked firmly in the crook of his arm.
There's a fine line though.
Starting running back Tim Hightower knew of Jefferson's name too, but his reaction was more concern for the rookie and a fear of overcoaching.
"He has a lot of ability and that's why they brought him in, because he can run the football," Hightower said. "When you start taking away from a running back's instinct and he's second-guessing himself, then what do you have? If all you are thinking about is protecting the ball, you're not using your peripheral vision, your cuts, your jukes, your shakes, your power, all the things that got you here.
"It's something I have to work on too. It could have been me. Outside people, they can coach you hard, but as a running back I understand, you don't want to get in somebody's head."
Such an idea rings true to Wright, who said he had just watched video of a back on another team – Wright didn't want to surrender specific details – suffer ill effects from just such a thing.
"You could tell something had happened as far as fumbling and ball security, because the way he was running with the ball was not at all enabling him to perform well," Wright said. "What you don't want to do, is overdo it and lose what Beanie has displayed, which is explosiveness and vision, all the stuff they drafted him for."
Whisenhunt said Wells has actually been getting better in practice at holding on to the ball.
He better be. Otherwise that nickname of Beanie might morph into "Darnell."
"We're just making sure he understands how important ball security is," Wilson said. "I am pretty sure he does now."
The Colts, who come to University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday, haven't visited Arizona since Dec. 2, 1990. The only longer time for a franchise visiting another is the Steelers at Washington, which hasn't happened since Sept. 11, 1988.
The Cardinals' eight sacks are second in the NFL, one behind the Bengals' league-leading total.
The Cardinals are now 18-8 in the regular season (and 21-9 including playoffs) under Whisenhunt when the team scores at least 20 points.