Packers notes: Preaching ball security paying off
GREEN BAY - It’s hard to believe the Green Bay Packers are tied for the fewest fumbles in the NFL after a sloppy showing during the 2016 season, especially during the early going.
But after five games and four victories, the Packers have fumbled just three times, and none of them are credited to wide receivers, running backs or tight ends.
They are tied with the Atlanta Falcons, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints and Tennessee Titans for the best mark in the league. The Los Angeles Rams have displayed the worst ball security in the league with 13 fumbles in five games.
“Just consistently working on it, honestly,” wide receiver Geronimo Allison said. “We preach fundamentals every day in practice. We practice ball security every day in practice. Really just continue to just have that sense of urgency for it, that awareness of we need to protect the ball.”
It’s a jarring contrast from the ball-security issues at the start of last season, when the Packers fumbled 11 times in their first five games.
» Week 1 at Jacksonville — 1 fumble (ILB Joe Thomas)
» Week 2 at Minnesota — 4 fumbles (QB Aaron Rodgers x3, WR Davante Adams)
» Week 3 vs. Detroit — 0 fumbles
» Week 5 vs. New York Giants — 1 fumble (RB James Starks)
» Week 6 vs. Dallas — 5 fumbles (QB Aaron Rodgers x2, RB/WR Ty Montgomery x2, WR Jordy Nelson)
This year, Rodgers is credited with one fumble on the backward pass against the Falcons that was scooped up and returned for a touchdown. The other two fumbles belong to outside linebacker Nick Perry against the Cowboys and center Corey Linsley against the Seattle Seahawks.
"I’ve never really been on a team that really practiced ball security like (we do),” Allison said. “Just that sense of urgency to focus on it more. The coaches, they see the same stats that you guys are seeing last year with the fumbles and stuff. Just that sense of urgency that we put into this year has just continued to show for us, protecting the ball and giving ourselves a better chance to score on offense.”
Familiar face: As part of their efforts to rebuild the offensive line, the Vikings used a third-round pick on center Pat Elflein, who was a former teammate of Packers center Corey Linsley's at Ohio State.
“Real good friends,” Linsley said. “He’s a tough, tenacious guy. He’s a hell of a player. He’s a great dude. We’re real good friends. … I knew the day he walked on campus (that he would be good). He had the hips, he had the tenacity, he had everything. He’s a real good player.”
As with Linsley, who was a fifth-round pick in 2014, the Vikings have handed the ball to Elflein from day one of the regular season. Linsley started all 16 games as a rookie, and Elflein has started all five games this season.
“They have a rookie center that looks like he’s going to really be a good player,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “He plays hard and he can pull, do things, he can go up to the second level.”
Cash withdrawal: Cornerback Damarious Randall was fined $9,115 for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after his pick-6 against the Cowboys.
Randall outran quarterback Dak Prescott on his way to the end zone and flipped the ball in Prescott’s direction to begin his celebration. The ball hit Prescott as Randall proceeded to mimic the cross-armed “X” made popular by Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant.
Randall denied drawing a flag when asked about it after the game, and earlier this week coach Mike McCarthy had no issue with the celebration itself.
“I don't think the intention was there for what happened for the penalty, but I can definitely see why they called it,” McCarthy said. “But it's definitely something we can learn about because that was a big penalty. That was a huge penalty, so that's something that factored in going for (the 2-point conversion) there too so all those things play into it, particularly at that point in the game with their ability to return kicks. It's something that you learn from, it's definitely something we talked through today.”
Wide receiver Davante Adams was fined $6,076 for throwing the ball into the stands after a touchdown reception.
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens of the Cowboys was fined $9,115 for his facemask penalty on wide receiver Randall Cobb in the second quarter.