Fancy fantasy football: Ryan Mathews' fumblitis

      September 28, 2012 @ 14:45:04 PDT

I'm a little more concerned about Ryan Mathews' fumbling problem on Friday than I was on Monday.

Mind you, my level of worry has increased by a miniscule amount. I drafted him in a couple of leagues - both before and after he sustained a fractured clavicle on his first preseason carry - and his tendency to put the pigskin on the floor troubled me a little when it reared its ugly head in Week 3.

It did Norv Turner, too, which is obviously why the San Diego Chargers' head coach addressed it with the media on Monday: He plans to place some kind of restriction on his featured back's utilization. But he also indicated that he and his staff can help Mathews extinguish the problem.

San  Diego Chargers RB Ryan Mathews
Mathews knows it's on him

My anxiety increased just a smidge because GM A.J. Smith took it further. No real issues with the fact that he kind of echoed Norv's assertion that Mathews would play less often. The chase about repeat offenders to which he cut when speaking with Kevin Acee was unnecessary and demonstrated his lack of consciousness, however.

As Acee's article prefaces, Smith has a lot invested in Mathews. Not really financially. More so professionally, and although he may not admit it, emotionally. So, I think what the general manager was saying here was, I'm mad at you, Mathews, and I'm not gonna let you treat me this way anymore!

Unfortunately, that's now how it comes across. Granted, in some cases, threats work, especially when reminders, like those Acee notes that Mathews has received, aren't enough. Some people need a wakeup call.

But Mathews isn't one of them. Norv had addressed the problem: If Mathews fumbles again, he'll lose those precious chances to prove himself. And Mathews was already aware that he has to climb a mountain to establish his worth.

At the beginning of the week, Scott Bair talked to Mathews about the running back's fumble in SD's Week 3 contest versus the Atlanta Falcons this past Sunday. The writer observed that "(n)o one feels worse about the mistake than Mathews. ..."

It's at this point that another warning would be counterproductive.

But while Acee was finishing his story about his conversation with Smith, Michael Gehlken was wrapping up a piece in which the lead story was about the steps Mathews has taken this week to address his poor ball security. The runner had accepted responsibility for the problem. If he errs again, he's in trouble.

So, maybe now, Mathews has one more thing to think about when he steps onto the field, lines up behind Philip Rivers and receives a handoff from his QB. Instead of focusing just on execution, he may also be wary of making another blunder. Which, as many of us have learned, often leads to another blunder.

Smith's fearful challenge isn't a death sentence for Mathews, naturally. It does change the face of the game a little, though.

Acee printed his hope that the dark cloud which seems to follow Mathews dissipates. San Diego's best rusher may not be able to do anything about some of the injuries he's sustained, but it hasn't taken 11 strokes of bad luck for him to put the football on the carpet. They're his gaffes.

Mathews doesn't need excuses any more than he needs additional pressure. He needs to concentrate until hanging onto the rock becomes second nature. Because otherwise, my sentiments align perfectly with Acee's, judging from the way he concluded his article:

"I really hope the leash he's on doesn't choke his potential."

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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