Legend has it that at Vince Lombardi's first team meeting with the Green Bay Packers, the new coach held up a ball and told his team, "This is a football." Many coaches since have pulled similar stunts to start a new season. It's a way of emphasizing fundamentals by starting with the basics.
And it seems very silly because, as we know, by the time players get to the pros they know all the fundamentals in and out, right? Not so fast.
Michael Vick, the 32-year-old starting quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles, has played 10 seasons in the NFL, played two seasons at Virginia Tech, started three years for his high school team and probably played youth football for many years before that. And throughout those thousands of practices and hundreds of games, Vick says nobody taught him how to properly carry a football.
It is absolutely mind-blowing that Vick didn't know the correct way to carry a football before new Eagles coach Chip Kelly pulled him aside at a recent practice and taught him, but that's what he told PhillyMag.com:
“Chip told me how to run with the football the other day,” Vick said. “He taught me how to run with the football and how to carry the football, and I think it’s something that you just have to work on.”
The PhillyMag.com writer seemed to think Vick was being facetious, or putting him on, but he wrote that Vick answered a follow-up question earnestly:
“The other day, I broke out in the pocket, and the first thing Chip told me was to tuck the football,” Vick said. “So I showed him how I was running with it, and he looked at it and he knocked the ball right out of my hands. And he was like, ‘Hold it like this.’ And what he told me felt comfortable. I had a tighter grip on the football. That should secure that problem as long as I work on it. Like I said, you’re always a work in progress, and even when you think you know it all, sometimes you don’t. The people who feel like they know everything, they don’t.”
Vick has 791 rushing attempts in his NFL regular-season career, another 235 at Virginia Tech, and nobody ever thought to teach him how to properly carry the ball so he wouldn't fumble it. It's even more amazing considering Vick has been prone to fumbles through his career. He has fumbled 87 times in his NFL career, losing 39. He fumbled 32 times in the last three years alone, and turnovers are the major reason his star dimmed after what looked like a career rebirth in Philadelphia a few years ago. Maybe a simple "high and tight!" would have prevented some. Or Vick is exaggerating it all, because it does seem implausible that a 32-year-old who has played football nearly all his life had never been taught how to properly tuck the football when he runs.
But then again, there's a reason Lombardi began his Packers tenure by introducing his players to a football. You can't assume anything.