Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can throughout the season. Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Players and coaches always talk about "protecting the football." Why is there such disparity between teams that do that well, especially when it comes to fumbles, and teams that don't?
Susan Perry, Del Mar
Farmer: There is a big difference in the fumbles department, when you consider Denver has lost one this seaso, and Cleveland has lost 14. Some of it is luck, some might be scheme related, but a lot of it is how much teams stress protecting the football throughout the week. Before every game, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck gets a two-word text from his father, Don, a former NFL tight end. The text reads: "Ball security."
Don raises an interesting point about one of the problems with simulating in practice what defensive players try to do to quarterbacks in games.
"As a quarterback, you're not getting used to getting hit at practice or anything," Don said. "They don't do those drills they do with running backs or receivers where they're slapping at you or punching at the ball. So the next thing you know, the quarterback gets stripped. You don't practice that. Because you're the quarterback, they're protecting you at all times, even in practice."
Why New England Patriots and not the Boston Patriots? They seem to be the only club/organization that uses a territory and not a city or state to identify their geographic location.
Troy Krumland, Dublin, Ireland
Farmer: They were the Boston Patriots before changing to reflect the region. They were the Boston Patriots in the American Football League, played at Fenway Park, and kept that name until 1971. When the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, and the Patriots needed a bigger venue, they played a season at Harvard Stadium and hoped to build new digs in the city.
When then-owner Billy Sullivan failed in his efforts to build in Boston, he moved the franchise a half-hour south to Foxborough. He briefly changed the name to the Bay State Patriots, but scrapped that when someone alerted him to the unfortunate abbreviation, the B.S. Patriots. Shortly thereafter, they were renamed the New England Patriots.
There are several naming peculiarities in the NFL. For instance, Tampa Bay is not a city but Tampa is; the Carolina Panthers play in Charlotte, but their name is applicable to both North and South Carolina; the San Francisco 49ers play almost an hour south in Santa Clara; and the New York Giants and Jets don't even play in New York but New Jersey — Buffalo is the only true New York team.