David Wilson

Are former track athletes more prone to fumbles in NFL?

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Wall Street Journal report posed an interesting theory about the New York Giants’ David Wilson‘s trouble holding onto the ball in the season opener Sunday.

Wilson, and some other running backs, may be more likely to fumble because they grew up running track.

Some of the backs the Wall Street Journal highlighted:

Wilson lost two fumbles in the Giants’ loss to the Cowboys on Sunday. He was sixth in the triple jump (16.20 meters) at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 2011 and could run the 100 meters in 11.01 seconds.

The Buffalo Bills’ C.J. Spiller fumbled on his second carry in a loss to the Patriots on Sunday. He was a track and field phenom in high school in Florida, wearing golden shoes in sweeping the 100 and 200 at the Class 2A state meet in 2006. He ran the 100 in 10.29 and the 200 in 20.96 at Clemson.

The Arizona Cardinals’ Alfonso Smith fumbled in a loss to the Rams on Sunday. Smith ran the 100 in 10.52 in high school, winning a Kentucky Class AAA state championship.

“If the individual comes from a track and field background, certainly it may have created a situation which needs to be addressed for football,” Peter Thompson, a longtime coach and former official for the IAAF, told the Wall Street Journal.

Thompson pointed out how running backs are taught to run tight, with the ball pressed against their bodies, while sprinters are taught to run loose. “Tightening up” is a term used in track and field to describe runners losing their form toward the end of races.

The report also looked at the obvious differences in the way running backs carry the ball and sprinters carry a baton in a relay. Also, the athletes’ eyes. In the NFL, it’s key to have as much of a vision across the field whereas in track one is focused on a single lane.

Let’s take a look at more NFL players with sprinting backgrounds, thanks to a list compiled by @tracksuperfan. Unfortunately, most of the NFL’s fastest men are or were wide receivers. Of the running backs, here’s what we’ve got thanks to pro-football-reference.com:

Curtis Dickey ran the 100 in 10.11. He fumbled 33 times over 1,075 touches in a seven-year NFL career in the 1980s. That’s an average of three fumbles per 100 touches, a little bit higher than the NFL average at that time (about 2.5).

Robert Smith ran the 400 in 45.73. He fumbled nine times over 1,609 touches in an eight-year NFL career in the 1990s. That’s an average of .6 of a fumble per 100 touches, way lower than the NFL average at that time (about 1.5).

In fact, Smith carried 232 times in the 1997 season and didn’t fumble once. The next highest back that season with zero fumbles had 136 carries.

James McAlister long jumped 8.24 meters. He fumbled 12 times over 251 touches in a three-year NFL career in the 1970s. That’s an average of almost five fumbles per 100 touches, way more than the NFL average at that time (about 2.6).

Spiller ran the 60 meters (indoor) in 6.58. He’s fumbled 11 times over 591 touches in an ongoing four-year NFL career. That’s an average of about 1.9 fumbles per 100 touches. Pro-football-reference’s blog item on fumble rates only goes through 2007, but at the time the NFL average was trending down toward one fumble per 100 touches. So, Spiller’s fumble rate is high.

There are several potential flaws in fumble stats, but among the small sample size of the most elite track athletes to play in NFL history, it appears there is a higher propensity to fumble. Except for Smith, who would be the most reliable case study since he had the most carries out of this group.

2012 Olympic champion says gold medal stolen from his car

2020 Tour de France standings

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2020 Tour de France results for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:05
2. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — +:59
3. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:30
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +5:58
5. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +6:47
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:48
8. Rigberto Uran (COL) — +8:02
9. Adam Yates (GBR) — +9:25
10. Damiano Caruso (ITA) — +14:03
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +25:53
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +42:20
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +1:03:07
29. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:59:54
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:19:11
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 284
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 260
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 181
5. Wout van Aert (BEL) — 174

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 82 points
2. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:13
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:42:43
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:55:12
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:15:39

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TOUR DE FRANCE: TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage | Favorites, Predictions

Tadej Pogacar, Slovenia win Tour de France for the ages

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A Tour de France that almost didn’t happen ended up among the most exciting in the race’s 117-year history.

Tadej Pogacar, a 21-year-old Slovenian, rode into Paris on Sunday as the first man in more than 60 years to pedal in the yellow jersey for the first time on the final day of a Tour.

Let’s get the achievements out of the way: Pogacar is the first Slovenian to win the Tour, finishing with the other overall leaders behind stage winner Sam Bennett on the Champs-Elysees.

“Even if I would come second or last, it wouldn’t matter, it would be still nice to be here,” Pogacar said. “This is just the top of the top. I cannot describe this feeling with the words.”

He is the second-youngest winner in race history, after Henri Cornet in 1904. (Cornet won after the first four finishers were disqualified for unspecified cheating. The 19-year-old Frenchman rode 21 miles with a flat tire during the last stage after spectators reportedly threw nails on the road.)

Pogacar is the first man to win a Tour in his debut since Frenchman Laurent Fignon in 1983.

And he’s part of a historic one-two for Slovenia, a nation with the population of Houston.

Countryman Primoz Roglic, who wore the yellow jersey for nearly two weeks before ceding it after Saturday’s epic time trial, embraced Pogacar after a tearful defeat Saturday and again during Sunday’s stage.

Tasmanian Richie Porte, who moved from fourth place to third on Saturday, made his first Tour podium in his 10th start, a record according to ProCyclingStats.com. The age range on the Paris gloaming podium — more than 13 years — is reportedly the largest in Tour history.

TOUR DE FRANCE: Standings | TV, Stream Schedule | Stage By Stage

Three men on a Tour de France podium in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe, each for the first time. Hasn’t been done since 2007, arguably the first Tour of a new era.

This Tour feels similarly guard-changing.

It barely got off, delayed two months by the coronavirus pandemic. Two days before the start, France’s prime minister said the virus was “gaining ground” in the nation and announced new “red zones” in the country, including parts of the Tour route.

Testing protocols meant that if any team had two members (cyclists or staff) test positive before the start or on either rest day, the whole team would be thrown out.

It never came to that. Yet the Tour finishes without 2019 champion, Colombian Egan Bernal, who last year became the first South American winner and, at the time, the youngest in more than 100 years.

Bernal abandoned last Wednesday after struggling in the mountains. His standings plummet signaled the end, at least for now, of the Ineos Grenadiers dynasty after five straight Tour titles dating to Chris Froome and the Team Sky days.

Jumbo-Visma became the new dominant team. The leader Roglic was ushered up climbs by several Jumbo men, including Sepp Kuss, the most promising American male cyclist in several years.

What a story Roglic was shaping up to be. A junior champion ski jumper, he was concussed in a training crash on the eve of what would have been his World Cup debut in 2007. Roglic never made it to the World Cup before quitting and taking up cycling years later.

As Roglic recovered from that spill in Planica, Pogacar had his sights on the Rog Ljubljana cycling club about 60 miles east. Little Tadej wanted to follow older brother Tilen into bike racing, but the club didn’t have a bike small enough.

The following spring, they found one. Pogacar was off and pedaling. In 2018, at age 18, he was offered a contract and then signed with UAE Team Emirates, his first World Tour team. The next year, Pogacar finished third at the Vuelta a Espana won by Roglic, becoming the youngest Grand Tour podium finisher since 1974.

Pogacar was initially slated to support another rider, Fabio Aru, for UAE Emirates at this year’s Tour. But his continued ascent propelled him into a team leader role.

Bernal and Roglic entered the Tour as co-favorites. After that, Pogacar was among a group of podium contenders but perhaps with the highest ceiling.

He stayed with the favorites for much of the Tour, save losing 81 seconds on the seventh stage, caught on the wrong end of a split after a crash in front of him.

“I’m not worried,” Pogacar said that day. “We will try another day.”

The next day, actually. He reeled back half of the lost time, putting him within striking distance of Roglic going into Saturday’s 22-mile time trial, the so-called “race of truth.”

Pogacar put in a performance in the time trial that reminded of Greg LeMond‘s epic finale in 1989. Pogacar won the stage by 81 seconds, greater than the margin separating second place from eighth place. Roglic was a disappointing fifth on the day, but he could have finished second and still lost all of his 57-second lead to Pogacar.

Pogacar turns 22 on Monday, but that might not add much to the celebration.

“Sorry,” he said, “but I’m not really a fan of my birthdays.”

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