Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is determined to make his first-quarter fumble against the Patriots his last of the season.
When Thomas was stripped by New England’s Sterling Moore after a 35-yard gain, it marked the second straight game when a long reception ended with the ball in the hands of the opposition.
“It’s just something that happens,” Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy said. “And one ball, he just flat-out dropped. You don’t see that very often, when a guy goes to switch hands and drops the ball. In New England, the guy made a good play on him. It’s something we can’t have happen. He’s got to protect the football, and that’s going to be an emphasis this week.”
To improve his ball security, Thomas has spent the week carrying a football around the team’s Dove Valley practice facility, including during meetings and film sessions. Holding onto that ball requires extra effort and attention for two reasons. For one thing, it is marked with letters that add to its value.
“It’s a ball with two M’s on it that stand for Madison and Morgan,” Thomas said. “That’s my (Wide Receivers) Coach (Tyke Tolbert)’s daughters. Basically, he told me I need to take good care of the ball. He wants me to picture it like it’s his two daughters.”
With two green beanies covering the ball, it’s also harder to grip, which led to some struggles on the first day Thomas was carrying it.
“I hold onto it in meetings,” Thomas said. “You have guys always trying to knock it out. A couple guys got it on the first day—it was cheating,” he laughed. “You get tired of holding it. You hold it so tight because it’s slippery. If you just hold it regularly, it’ll come out easy.”
Thomas said he expects the extra effort this week to prove valuable come game time.
“I’m trying not to let anybody hit me,” Thomas said. “I feel like it’s a disappointment, because the past two weeks, I’ve had two fumbles. I feel like if I just hold onto that ball because it’s slippery, I think I can be able to hold onto the ball in a game.”
Thomas’ recent fumbles will undoubtedly be on the minds of the Chargers’ defenders. Ballcarriers with recent fumbles can always count on opposing defenses to test their grip. Thomas isn’t concerned about what that might mean when he has the ball in his hands. In fact, he welcomes the thought of tacklers concentrating more on taking the ball out of his hands than putting him on the ground.
“I feel like they’ll try to get the ball out more than just trying to tackle me,” Thomas said. “If I hold onto the ball, I can make guys miss tackles. I don’t think it’s easy to tackle me.”