KANSAS CITY, Mo. A reporter pointed at Knile Davis hands, outstretched and calloused. To this, Davis just smiled and pointed to his head, tapping his temple softly.
Its a mentality thing, the Kansas City Chiefs running back said Friday as the clubs weekend rookie mini-camp got underway. I really dont feel like it has anything to do with your hands.
(Its) just being aware. Have to keep it high and tight. Keep it high and tight, and youll be fine.
Over three healthy seasons at the University of Arkansas, Davis coughed the ball up 13 times over 349 carries. To give that number a little context, Jamaal Charles has 13 fumbles over his last 717 regular-season attempts, dating back to 2009.
So, yeah, as the doctors probably say about coach Andy Reids cholesterol level, that numbers a little higher than the ideal.
Fumbles are the skill players great demoralizer, tailback Kryptonite. You may hit like a freight train and run like a cheetah, but if the defenders coming out of the pile with the rock after your 65-yard run, then what was the stinking point?
Because when you look at (Philadelphia Eagles back) LeSean McCoy, man, he runs with it like this, explained Davis, a third-round selection in last months NFL Draft, swinging his elbows high as he cradles an imaginary ball. But like, when I say its a mind thing, he knows when he gets in traffic to pull it up. So its just being aware of it, and knowing your surroundings and just protecting it.
Its a situational thing. An awareness thing. Davis said he was rusty last autumn after recovering from an ankle injury that wiped out his entire 2011 campaign. He said he got sloppy.
And, well, thats the rub. Also, the risk.
Chiefs fans arent quite certain which Knile theyre getting: The 2010 version that rolled for 1,322 rushing yards with the Razorbacks? Or the 2012 version that couldnt hang on to the rock and averaged just 3.37 yards per carry? As a physical specimen, Davis checks off every box, a 227-pound hammer whos been clocked at a 4.3-ish range in the 40-yard dash. Some scouts see parallels to Arian Foster; others see a faster, more compact version of Shonn Greene.
Either way, it has the potential to be straight nasty, a total draft steal, almost the complete package. Almost. Davis has to prove to Reid and the Chiefs staff, long-term, that he can hold up in one piece against the relentless NFL grind, and that his butterfingery past is a correctable sin.
Were asking them to do different techniques and fundamentals than they did at the college level, Reid allowed. Its two-fold.
High and tight, son. High and tight.
The first official salvo of the Knile Davis Ball Security Project was fired during an open practice session Friday afternoon. Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, whose list of former prodigies include Maurice Jones-Drew and Adrian Peterson, had Davis carrying a heavy ball during positional drills in order to help with comfort and grip.
That makes me more aware of (the rock), Davis said. Then when (they) put a light football in my hands, it was like, Ohhhh, yeahhhh.
Still, our man Knile admits: Once you get those carry-the-ball-like-a-loaf-of-bread habits, theyre a pain in the backside to break. Like a lot of young runners, Davis relies on vision first, instinct second.
But Im working on it, he said. Im trying to get the Trent Richardson and Tiki Barber (grip). Im trying to get it up. So thats what I worked on pretty much all day.
The rest of the day was kind of a blur, both in the literal and the figurative sense. Even in shorts, the 5-foot-10 Davis offered up the kind of burst out of the box that had made him a workout darling just a few months earlier. Of course, after scampering more than 90 yards across the field, unopposed, to finish off one run, Davis immediately (and curiously) wandered over to the sidelines, dazed. Then he doubled over, hands on his knees, as if struggling to get his wind back.
Just pushing yourself, Davis would say later. I wasnt complaining. Just had to catch my breath at the end.
On the plus side, the native Texan flashed some of the receiving goods out of the backfield that also made him attractive to Reid; between 2004-2011, the top rusher with in Philly Brian Westbrook (04-08), then McCoy (09-11) also averaged 65 catches per season. Not too shabby for a cat whose hands (8.58 inches) were measured at the combine as the fourth-tiniest among the running back group.
I want to be better than 2010, Davis vowed. Im going to give 2010 and better. For sure. For sure.
The paws might be small. The upside isnt.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org