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BillyC 12-21-2003 08:06 AM

Quarterbacks say they're losing their grip this season

Quarterbacks say they're losing their grip this season
Here's a story you may not have heard too much about, but it's a hot topic in the NFL quarterbacking community: Footballs are harder to hold onto than ever this season, say the men who's job it is to grip 'em and let it rip. What's the rub? Apparently the balls are slicker and the leather in need of more pregame rub down.

"Quarterbacks have been complaining about it all the time this year,'' said one high-profile agent who has several starting NFL quarterbacks as clients. "I don't know why it is. Maybe they're not rubbing up the balls as well as in the past, but I do know it's a huge problem and the quarterbacks are complaining about it.''

Come to think of it, there have been what seem like an unusually high number of whifferoonies this season, where the quarterback cocks his arms and loses grip of the ball as he starts the throwing motion. Brady, Brett Favre and Donovan McNabb have all had several of those, although with Favre and McNabb it was thought to be because of their midseason thumb injuries.

The league's director of officiating, Mike Pereira, points out that it's up to each team's equipment manager to rub down the 24 game balls that will be used in non-kicking situations in that game. The game officials do the rubbing down for the 12 new kicking balls that are used in each game, and then those balls are marked.

"We don't rub up the balls that the quarterbacks use,'' Pereira said. "The teams are responsible, and their equipment managers are allowed to give them to the quarterbacks during the week to test them. They can get them the way they like them, and then we test the air pressure and mark those for use as well.

"You hear about complaints about the kicking balls, because everybody likes them a little bit different. But it's very seldom we hear anything about the regular balls. The folks that the quarterbacks need to talk to are their own equipment guys.''

Pereira also said that Wilson, which manufactures the NFL's game balls, has not changed anything this season as far as the type of leather being used.

"I had one client come into the league this year and say, 'My God, these balls are impossible to grip,''' the agent said. "But you just have to deal with it. And as the weather gets colder, it's tougher than ever. The leather gets slicker, and it's harder for your hands to get a hold of them.''

Don Banks covers pro football for

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