Patriots Coach Offers Unfiltered Thoughts On Damien Harris Fumble Woes

'Gah! It's got to be the most important thing on his mind'


October 12, 2021

Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears always says what’s on his mind.

Fears has built a reputation for providing raw, unfiltered analysis on his players. His recent comments on J.J. Taylor and Rhamondre Stevenson are great examples.

Fears offered a harsh review of Damien Harris’s costly fumble in New England’s season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins. So, you knew he’d have much to say about Harris’s similarly bad fumble in Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans.

During Tuesday’s news conference, Fears first was asked whether running backs sometimes think too much about securing the football.

“Yeah, I’m sure there’s some truth to that,” Feras said. “Who knows — who really knows? The point is, he’s got to understand how important it is to carry the ball. And if he carries it with the right technique, the right emphasis on proper handling of the football at all times, I don’t think we’ll have this problem. Now Damien has been very successful in carrying the ball all year last year. And then this year, I’m not sure exactly what’s going through his mind at certain times there. It seems to be something that we’re going to have to stay on top of and keep working at.

“Now, I don’t want to change who he is as a runner. That’s important to us, because production is based on running hard, being a physical runner and getting extra yards, and all those things are very important. But somewhere along the line, we got to understand that if we let the ball go, it’s a problem. It’s a real problem. And we can’t have the ball out of our hands. That’s important.”

Fears added: “Gah! It’s got to be the most important thing on his mind. I don’t care. It’s got to be the most important thing on his mind.”

On rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, who fumbled in the season opener before sitting multiple weeks, Fears offered the following: “Actually, I thought Rhamondre started (Sunday’s) game out too cautious. He was almost very nervous to carry the ball. He can’t — we can’t play that way. He’s got to let himself play. And I think he will. I really do.

Fears then was asked about Texans head coach David Culley acknowledging New England’s ball-security problems.

“That’s our reputation right now,” Fears said. “That’s not a secret. Now, let’s be honest. It would be crazy for anybody to think anything other than that. We’ve turned the ball over on key situations going in for scores. That would have given us two games by now. That would have made the difference in two games. So, that is a fact that we’ve got to deal with and we’re gonna have to — it’s gonna take us all year to get that out of people’s minds.

“All year. And believe me, we’re going to be working at it, it’s not something where anybody’s happy about. I don’t think the players are happy about it, we’re not happy about it. But we’ve got to — the only way you change that stat is you do it during play. That’s when you change it.

Ultimately, Fears, for all his candor, sang an optimistic tune Tuesday afternoon. He seemed very positive.

“Time’s running out for me.,” the 66-year-old said. “I gotta enjoy every damn day I get.”

Fair enough.

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