We were surprised to learn that running back LeGarrette Blount took the majority of first-team reps with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason. When coach Greg Schiano drafted Doug Martin in the first round, the rookie was projected to step in and take over the job.
Schiano is pleased with Blount's improved pass protection and receiving work, and the third-year pro has adapted well to another adjustment: How he carries the ball.
Blount, along with every Bucs runner, is being schooled in the ways of "high-and-tight," which requires lodging the ball between the forearm, the upper arm and the chest. Former New York Giants back Tiki Barber solved a case of fumblitis by switching to the technique, and Blount appears comfortable with the new approach.
"It's become a habit," Blount told the Bucs' official website last week. "I don't even notice that I do it most of the time. Holding the ball down here (closer to the stomach) is kind of uncomfortable now."
The Bucs were tied for eighth in the NFL with eight fumbles last season. Blount contributed three of those. Schiano, naturally, would like none.
This all goes back to Schiano's increasingly famous love for control. We already know about the man's near obsessive-compulsive desire to monitor room temperature during team meetings. That inner need to tweak, tighten and keep his hands on everything extends to the playing field.
We also should note that Blount's running backs coach is none other than Earnest Byner, who understands, perhaps better than any man on the planet what a fumble can mean to one's career.