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Gado Focuses On Improving Ball Protection


Samkon Gado may have fumbled three times in his last two games, but he remained upbeat, even sporting a grin during Wednesday's locker room session.

"I wouldn't have a smile on my face if I knew I wasn't studying, I wasn't busting my tail in practice every day," Gado said. "I'm giving it the best effort I can give. I can't give any more."

Although Gado makes a case because of his work ethic, Head Coach Mike Sherman has not announced whether Gado or Tony Fisher will start at running back against the Philadelphia Eagles. After Gado fumbled on the second play of the second half, Sherman replaced Gado with Fisher for the rest of the Vikings game. Fisher responded with 14 yards on four carries.

No matter who starts, Gado will see action during the game.

"He's gonna play," Sherman said.

And when Gado does play, Sherman remains confident he will address his fumbling problems and run with the authority he showed while gaining 103 yards against the Atlanta Falcons.

"He'll get better," Sherman said. "I've never met such a conscientious young man about it. He works at it constantly."

During practice this week, Gado will work at improving his ball control by carrying it high and tight as he runs through the hole. His forearm and hand will grasp the football up near his shoulder instead of at his side. When he motors a few yards past the line of scrimmage, he can bring his arm down.

"Once I break free I can resort back to my normal running motion but still with a sense of protecting the ball because players can come from anywhere," he said.

As part of their ball protection philosophy, the Packers emphasize the football should touch three points of contact. They coach their players to form a peace sign with two fingers on the tip of the ball. Running backs rest the ball on the second point of contact -- the forearm. For the third point of contact, the non-exposed side of the ball should touch the rib cage below the shoulder pads.

"With those three points of contact, you should have the ability to maintain ball possession for three to five seconds after first contact," fullback William Henderson said.

The key for the 23-year-old Gado will be finding a happy medium between protecting the ball using those three points of contact and running freely. During his first extensive action against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gado focused so intently on hanging onto the football that he didn't maintain his hip swivel, which makes him an elusive player.

"He was so tight. He was so protective of the football that he didn't really run," Sherman said. "He has to find his style."

Gado agreed with Sherman's assessment of his 26-carry, 62-yard performance against the Steelers.

"It was my first game," he said. "The last thing I wanted to do was put the ball on the ground."

Sherman offered other reasons for optimism. After examining tape, Sherman said Gado handled the ball carelessly only once during his three fumbles in game action. Defenders hit him solidly during each of the fumbles. Moreover, Gado has never fumbled during practice.

Gado, who has only played in four NFL games and been on the Packers' roster since Oct. 17, will improve as he receives more game experience.

"I really want to fix this, go back to work and right the wrongs," Gado said. "I'm learning, and there's a lot to learn, but I think eventually I'll get it."

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