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Thursday, October 10, 2013
Disturbing fumbling trend for Ray Rice

By Jamison Hensley

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- During last season's playoffs, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice defended his ability to hold onto the football by pointing to his fumble history.

Well, his fumble history since suggests there is a problem. Rice has coughed up the ball five times in his past eight games, dating to last season's playoffs. His latest came Sunday in Miami, where he fumbled at his own 28-yard line.

Joe Lefeged, Ray Rice
Ray Rice's fortunes carrying the football took a turn starting with last season's playoffs. He has five fumbles in eight games.
"My confidence is not shaken," Rice said. "I look back at it and that guy is a big, strong guy. He just made a good play. It's not like they're just ripping it from me and taking it from me. That guy wrapped me up and bear-hugged me. When he got a hold of me, I didn't get a chance to put the second hand on the ball."

Ball security had been a strength of Rice. From the start of the 2010 season to the end of the 2012 regular season, Rice had lost just three fumbles. The only running back who had fewer lost fumbles over that span while playing over 2,000 snaps was Steven Jackson. Rice once had a regular-season streak in which he didn't fumble in 522 straight regular-season touches.

But since the start of the 2012 postseason, Rice has put the ball on the ground frequently. He's averaged one fumble every 32.6 touches in his past eight games. He sat out against the Week 3 win over the Texans with a hip injury.

"I really don't think the ball should ever be fumbled personally," coach John Harbaugh said. "Those should be so rare that it should almost never happen."

After Rice fumbled twice in the wild-card game against Indianapolis, he said it would be the last time he would address fumbling because it wasn't going to happen again. But he lost the ball in the Super Bowl, too. During the offseason, former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb criticized Rice for fumbling too much.

This season, Rice has fumbled twice, in Week 2 against Cleveland and last Sunday in Miami. But both fumbles have been converted into a total of three points.

"You just have to be aware of the situation," Rice said. "Those guys get paid as well. But it's something obviously I pay attention to."

Rice's fumbling has been a bad trend for the Ravens, but it hasn't cost the team yet. The Ravens have yet to lose in a game in which Rice has fumbled since Oct. 24, 2011. But that doesn't mean the Ravens are brushing off these turnovers.

"It's always a main concern," Harbaugh said. "That's always going to be the No. 1 priority on offense is to protect the football. We use the term aggressive ball security. We want to run the ball north and south. We want the ball high and tight. And sure, it's a big priority."