FOXBORO, Mass. — After the New England Patriots selected running back Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, you would have thought he fumbled every other time he touched the ball at Georgia.
Concerns with Michel’s ball security even enhanced some of the shock that New England actually drafted a running back in the first round. And yes, Michel did fumble a lot in college for a Patriots running back — 12 times in 658 total touches to be exact, equating to once every 55 times he had the ball in his hands. He fumbled twice in 165 total touches as a senior.
And after all of that panic, Michel has fumbled just once in 216 touches this season. And his lone fumble, which was lost, came when he injured his knee.
“He’s done a good job,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Friday. “Yeah, he’s done a good job. Ball security has been a lot better for us in the last — it was bad in the early part of the year. It’s gotten better. It needs to be good at this time of year. Hopefully, it will be.”
Belichick further stressed the importance of ball security when asked if that’s something Michel works on in particular in practice.
“Everybody works on it every week,” Belichick said. “We’ve worked on it since the first day we walked out on the field in the spring. Every day in training camp, every day in the season. There hasn’t been a day this year we haven’t worked on ball security or taking the ball away. There’s nothing more important than that other than points. But ball security and ball possession are at the very top of the list. We work on it every single day. …
“It’s a priority for everybody. I don’t care if you’re in the league 20 years, 10 years, or one game. It’s a priority for everybody who touches it. Our football team needs that. If we don’t have it then we’re probably not going to win. It’s a priority for everybody.”
It wasn’t just media members who talked about Michel’s fumbling after the running back was drafted. Running backs coach Ivan Fears got into the act, as well, when asked in May about a potential cure to Michel’s fumblitis.
“Let him sit on the bench a little while,” Fears said. “He’s gotta figure out that’s the most important thing he does. He’s gotta figure that out, and he’s gotta get that message. And I don’t care how you do it, he’s gotta get that message. And when he gets that message, he’s going to play, he’s going to hold onto that ball. If he can’t hold onto that ball, then he can’t play for us. We can’t have that.”
So far, Michel hasn’t hit the bench this year. And the Patriots certainly are hoping he stays dependable now that the games really matter.