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When an NFL coach fumbles his lines

Fumbling has been a problem for Arizona Cardinals running backs, or at least for one of them.

Tim Hightower has fumbled 10 times and lost eight of them over the past two seasons. Beanie Wells fumbled four times as a rookie in 2009, losing two, before suffering only one fumble (none lost) last season. Hightower's 10 fumbles over the past two seasons rank tied for second in the NFL during that time.

The Cardinals were naturally drawn to sure-handed running backs in the 2011 NFL draft ... or were they? Ryan Williams, the running back Arizona selected in the second round, either suffered zero or several fumbles during his two seasons at Virginia Tech. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt went with the former -- zero -- when asked what about Williams was appealing.

"He hadn’t fumbled in two years," Whisenhunt told reporters in Arizona. "I like that, because that’s certainly been an issue for our running backs the last couple of years."

Finding definitive stats for college football players is much tougher than finding them for their NFL counterparts. Still, it's clear Williams did fumble multiple times, including in a critical situation.

One email I received over the weekend from a Cardinals fan named Kurt pounced on Whisenhunt's mistake. Kurt noted that Whisenhunt had even lauded Williams' performance during the 2009 game against North Carolina in which Williams lost that critical fumble.

"I can't believe that an NFL coach and scouting staff would make this mistake," Kurt wrote. "Apparently, they watched film of Williams; otherwise, why would 'Whiz' mention the North Carolina game? But if he watched it, how could he miss a key fumble? And what excuse would the organization have for not double-checking the claims on the internet against actual game films? Just lazy?"

You're making a huge leap in saying the head coach's error reflects negatively on the entire scouting operation. Whisenhunt's error more likely resulted from getting bad info while quickly prepping for his news conference. Head coaches often rely on scouts, team doctors and others in the organization for many of the details.

If you're skeptical of Whisenhunt, you'll have little trouble taking this quote and running with it. If you're a Whisenhunt fan, you'll be more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I know this: Whisenhunt will hear about this one plenty if Williams becomes a chronic fumbler, or even if Williams loses a critical fumble at some point early in his career. But if the Cardinals are right about Williams -- they had him rated as the 15th-best player in the draft -- this comment won't matter much.