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Tiki gets a grip

Trying to block fumbling out of his mind



Tiki Barber loses fumble Monday night, his second turnover in as many games this year.

There it was, splashed across TV screens for the whole world — and every NFL player — to see. As soon as Tiki Barber coughed up a first-half fumble against the Cowboys Monday night, the graphic appeared: Since the 2000 season, the Giants' running back has fumbled more times (28) than any other non-quarterback in football.

If Barber didn't have a fumbler's reputation already, he has one now. Think the Redskins will be working on a few strip drills this week? Think Tiki is worried about fumbling another?

"I'm not, but the coach is," Barber said yesterday. "That means that I have to work on it. It's my responsibility. This isn't about me. It's about my teammates, me letting them down in certain situations and I understand that."

Barber, a key cog in the Giant offense, has fumbled once in each of the two games this year. Another fumble against the Rams was negated because the play was not reviewable.

Yesterday, Barber met with Jim Fassel and running backs coach Eric Studesville, who both stressed how important it is to hold onto the pigskin.

Fassel said he doesn't want Barber to get a "phobia" about it, but admitted, "I talked to him and to all of the guys, not just applying to Tiki. I explained it to him and I'll say it again, if that continues, I don't care who is out there playing, I don't care who we are playing, we are not going to win many games."

It all puts Barber in somewhat of a predicament. He doesn't want to keep dropping the football, but he doesn't want to be reminded of it all the time either.

"I've been a fumbler in my lifetime, before in college, and as soon as you start thinking about it ... just like my second year here when I couldn't catch a pass ... it's like Chuck Knoblauch can't throw a ball from second to first," he said. "Once you start thinking about it and it becomes an obsession, you really don't have a chance because most of this game is mental.

"As physical as it is, you win and you lose by how mentally strong you are and that's what I focus on when situations like this occur to me. It's not like I haven't been here before and don't know how to deal with it."

Despite his numbers, Barber doesn't consider himself a fumbler and added, "I don't think Coach Fassel thinks I'm a liability."

Studesville is doing his best to help Barber, going back and looking at the fumbles on tape.

"He usually tells me exactly what I've done. I prefer to let them go because they have no bearing on what I'm going to do the rest of the game," Barber said.

"I'm not a stupid man in regard to what wins football games in this league and I understand that turnovers are a big factor," he added. "But it's out of my mind as soon as it happens. Otherwise, you dwell on it and that's when you get in trouble."

According to Studesville, most of Barber's problems occur when he's running through traffic, as was the case Monday night. Fassel thinks that sometimes he carries the ball a little too far from his body.

"It's not a science," Barber said. "You just try to do things better. Just concentrate going through the hole, two hands on the ball when you get in traffic. Be aware not to let your hands get loose. When you're going down, don't reach for extra yardage, which I usually do. Little things. That's where fumbling comes from."

Barber wasn't aware of the ABC graphic and was surprised by it.

"But I don't keep track of those things," he added. "I'm surprised when you guys tell me how many yards away I am from Frank Gifford's record."

When asked if he'll approach this the same way he cured his fumble-itis at Virginia, Barber said, "Absolutely.

"I cured my drops catching passes with the same philosophy. You have to have amnesia."

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