Are former track athletes more prone to fumbles in NFL?

David Wilson

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

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

Chloe Kim, Elana Meyers Taylor among Olympians to join presidential sports council

Elana Meyers Taylor, President Joe Biden

Chloe Kim and Elana Meyers Taylor are among the Olympic and Paralympic medalists set to join the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition.

President Joe Biden intends to appoint the snowboarder Kim, bobsledder Meyers Taylor, retired Olympic medalists Chaunté Lowe (track and field) and Tamika Catchings (basketball) and Paralympic medalist Melissa Stockwell (triathlon) to the council, among other athletes and people in the health and fitness fields, it was announced Friday.

Stephen and Ayesha Curry are also on the list.

The council “aims to promote healthy, accessible eating and physical activity for all Americans, regardless of background or ability.”

Last year, Biden appointed basketball gold medalist Elena Delle Donne a co-chair of the council.

Kim, the two-time reigning Olympic halfpipe champion, sat out this past season but is expected to return to competition for a third Olympic run in 2026.

Meyers Taylor, the most decorated U.S. Olympic bobsledder in history with medals in all five of her Olympic events, sat out this past season due to pregnancy. She took her first bobsled run in 13 months this past week in Lake Placid, New York.

There is a long history of Olympians and Paralympians serving on the council, which was created in 1956.

In 2017, Barack Obama appointed medalists including gymnast Gabby Douglas, soccer player Carli Lloyd and fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

Others to previously be on the council include sprinter Allyson Felix, figure skater Michelle Kwan and swimmer and triathlete Brad Snyder.

Members serve for two years and can be reappointed.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Kaori Sakamoto wins figure skating worlds; top American places fourth


Kaori Sakamoto overcame a late error in her free skate to become the first Japanese figure skater to win back-to-back world titles and the oldest women’s world champion since 2014.

Sakamoto, 22, totaled 224.61 points on home ice in Saitama to prevail by 3.67 over Lee Hae-In of South Korea in the closest women’s finish at worlds since 2011.

Belgium’s Loena Hendrickx took bronze, edging 16-year-old American Isabeau Levito for a medal by 2.77 points.

Sakamoto is the oldest women’s singles world champion since Mao Asada (2014), who is now the only Japanese skater with more world titles than Sakamoto.

She appeared en route to an easier victory until singling a planned triple flip late in her free skate, which put the gold in doubt. She can be thankful for pulling off the second jump of that planned combination — a triple toe loop — and her 5.62-point lead from Wednesday’s short program.

“I feel so pathetic and thought, what was all that hard work I put into my training?” Sakamoto said of her mistake, according to the International Skating Union (ISU). “But I was able to refocus and do my best till the end.

“Because I have this feeling of regret at the biggest event of the season, I want to make sure I don’t have this feeling next season. So I want to practice even harder, and I want to make sure to do clean, perfect performances at every competition.”

Lee, who had the top free skate, became the second South Korean to win a world medal in any discipline after six-time medalist Yuna Kim.

Hendrickx followed her silver from last year, when she became the first Belgian women’s singles skater to win a world medal.

FIGURE SKATING WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Levito, last year’s world junior champion, had a chance to become the youngest senior world medalist since 2014.

After a solid short program, she fell on her opening triple Lutz in the free skate and left points on the table by performing two jump combinations rather than three. The Lutz was planned to be the first half of a combination with a triple loop.

“I am severely disappointed because I’ve been nailing my Lutz-loop for a really long time, and this is the first time I’ve messed it up in a while, and of course it had to be when it actually counted,” Levito said, according to the ISU. “But I’m pretty happy with myself for just trying to move past it and focusing on making the most out of the rest of the program.”

Levito entered worlds ranked fourth in the field by best score this season. She matched the best finish for a U.S. woman in her senior global championships debut (Olympics and worlds) since Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan took silver and bronze at the 1991 Worlds. Sasha Cohen, to whom Levito is often compared, also placed fourth in her Olympic and world debuts in 2002.

“I feel very proud for myself and grateful for my coaching team for helping me get this far so far in my skating career, and I’m just very proud to be where I am,” Levito said on USA Network.

American Amber Glenn was 12th in her world debut. Two-time U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was 15th. They had been 10th and eighth, respectively, in the short program.

The U.S. qualified two women’s spots for next year’s worlds rather than the maximum three because the top two Americans’ results added up to more than 13 (Levito’s fourth plus Glenn’s 12th equaled 16). The U.S. was in position to qualify three spots after the short program.

Glenn said after the short program that she had a very difficult two weeks before worlds, including “out-of-nowhere accidents and coincidences that could have prevented me from being here,” and boot problems that affected her triple Axel. She attempted a triple Axel in the free skate, spinning out of an under-rotated, two-footed landing.

Tennell, who went 19 months between competitions due to foot and ankle injuries in 2021 and 2022, had several jumping errors in the free skate.

“This season has been like one thing after another,” said the 25-year-old Tennell, who plans to compete through the 2026 Winter Games. “I’m really excited to get back and work on some stuff for the new season.”

Earlier, Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates topped the rhythm dance, starting their bid for a first world title in their 12th season together and after three prior world silver or bronze medals.

“We skated as best we possibly could today,” Bates said, according to the ISU, after they tallied the world’s top score this season.

Meryl Davis and Charlie White are the lone U.S. ice dancers to win a world title, doing so in 2011 and 2013.

Worlds continue Friday night (U.S. time) with the free dance, followed Saturday morning with the men’s free skate, live on Peacock and USA Network.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!