SPARTANBURG – When Elijah Holyfield first saw the boxing gloves and first-year running backs coach Jake Peetz said he might need some help getting them on, the son of the former heavyweight champion of the world couldn't help but be a little amused.
"I just laughed at him," Holyfield said.
When the guy coaching a rookie named Holyfield puts on boxing gloves, that's going to attract some attention.
"I suppose people could look at it and say, 'Oh, that's a fun way to spice it up.' And maybe it is. But notice I didn't put them on Elijah," Peetz joked after practice. "There's a defined reason for doing it."
It was actually another rookie running back – fifth-round pick Jordan Scarlett – who inspired Peetz to bring out the gloves. On Sunday, Scarlett fumbled during a live 9-on-7 drill and that got Peetz to thinking.
"He's had two (fumbles) this camp. One of them, he was coming through and the defender came and punched it out – the Peanut Punch. The other one came when he had a really nice run and the safety got his hat on the ball. He's putting the ball in the paint (jersey number) and he's doing a nice job cupping the wrist, it's just hard to simulate getting that ball punched or a helmet on the ball. It's really hard to do that," Peetz explained.
"So this morning I was watching the fumble again, and I was like, 'How can we make this drill better? How can we train that skill?'"
So Peetz, who is always looking for ways to make drills better, got a hold of some boxing gloves. And when the running backs went through the drill during individuals on Monday, Peetz was there to deliver some blows.
The drill is designed to make the runners slightly off balance, which is when it becomes harder to protect the ball. And as we all know, in this league, ball security is job security.
"When you're off balance, the natural thing is for that ball to go down. When the tip of the ball is down, that's bad," Peetz said. "And look, no one wants to fumble and you can't just say, 'Don't fumble the ball.' What's the skill? What are we trying to train? It's not just doing it to do it."
Peetz is preparing the running backs to take a punch. One he hopes that they deliver right back.
View photos from the fifth day of training camp.