Tom Coughlin loves Ahmad Bradshaw. But the kid is starting to drive him crazy.
It's the fumbling. Bradshaw has three fumbles already, including one in the fourth quarter against the Bears, with the score 10-3, on which he had broken loose for an apparent game-cinching touchdown. Instead, Zack Bowman came from behind and knocked it out just yards from the goal line, and Bowman recovered it at the Chicago 1.
It was his only black mark on a 129-yard performance represented the Giants' first individual 100-yard rushing effort in 14 games.
Bradshaw's problems brought back memories of Tiki Barber's fumble problems before Coughlin and his staff took over in 2004. Once running backs coach Jerald Ingram got hold of him, he worked daily to change Barber's hold from the cradle he'd used to a high-and-tight cross-hold. He fumbled only five times that year, losing just two, compared to the nine total and six lost fumbles he had in each of the previous two seasons.
And he improved after that, too, recording one fumble in 357 attempts in 2005, and three in his final year of 2006.
Coughlin is hoping the same will happen with Bradshaw. But he knows things won't change until Bradshaw, like Barber, faces his problem.
In the meantime, Coughlin constantly reminds Bradshaw of the better way to handle the ball.
"Verbally," Coughlin said. "And every week, I'm assured, ‘Don't worry, coach.' But the thing that happens is you get in the game and you become more instinctive, and occasionally the bad habits come roaring out.
"If it's something that the player says, ‘I've had enough,' when that takes place, then we'll get what we want."
The regimen that created the alteration with Barber may not take on the same character with Bradshaw. Barber carried the ball through a whole offseason – in the weight room, while running, every conditioning session. The solution for Bradshaw, more of a sharp cutback runner than Barber's gliding style, might be somewhat different.
But Coughlin hopes Bradshaw soon picks up the idea that a ballcarrier is never safe, no matter how far he seemingly has separated himself from his pursuers.
Ingram has even told him to take a peek at the video boards that loom over the end zone corners if he's unsure. And Coughlin has told his running backs that they're always in traffic.
He's just looking for an answer, even if it means a few less yards.
"The ball's on the ground and the other guy has the ball, what's the sense?" Coughlin said. "What do you have to gain?
"I've stood up here and said before, I love the kid. He's a great effort guy. He gives you every once, everything he's got he pours into it. However, (the fumbling) takes away from it. You just hope they learn, but he's been doing this a lot."