Adrian Peterson had four fumbles as a Vikings rookie in 2007, a reasonable number for someone who touched the ball 257 times from scrimmage.
That jumped to nine fumbles in 2008 and seven more in 2009 — not counting the infamous NFC title game.
Every time the fumbles were talked about as a growing concern, with evidence of that during the 2008 season, they seemed to gain a certain mythology. Peterson insisted he was working on it, and even would carry a football around with him in the locker room as a means of increasing his handle on ball security.
But once you get a reputation for fumbling, it's not just hard to shake. It seemingly becomes more likely. Defensive players watch the same tendencies and try to exploit them — punching and ripping at the ball, particularly against a ball carrier prone to losing it.
Fumbling isn't a problem until it's a problem. And the only cure is a sustained stretch of not fumbling. That sounds comically simple, but as noted on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast it is no laughing matter with Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell and the 2023 Vikings.
On Monday, O'Connell looked as exhausted and alarmed as multiple observers have ever seen him — perhaps not a surprise, as it was one day after another vexing loss to the Chargers dropped the Vikings to 0-3, a start to the season that felt completely contrary to O'Connell's charmed first year as head coach.
His frustration with the team's turnovers — and particularly the seven lost fumbles along with two interceptions — was palpable.
"We need to end every snap with the football in our hands," O'Connell said, even lamenting plays that didn't officially end with fumbles because runners were down by contact or had forward progress stopped. "That's going to be a continued urgency and emphasis, and we're going to continue to do it, do it differently and emphasize it different ways until that value is received. Because that is a losing formula."
The problem is bad enough that O'Connell linked ball security to job security.
"Either guys are going to do it," O'Connell said, "or we're going to have to put guys in the game that have ball security."
The coach was decidedly more upbeat Wednesday, expressing optimism that the Vikings could build on the positives and learn from the negatives of the season-to-date.
But we won't know the problem is really fixed until it is.
Here are four more things to know today:
*Star Tribune women's basketball writer Kent Youngblood had a good look at the Gophers as they prepare for their first season under coach Dawn Plitzuweit.
*I like the format of how ESPN broke down the stunning trade that sent Damian Lillard to the Bucks.
*How good is the news that Royce Lewis is making progress with his hamstring injury? If he plays, I like the Twins to win their Wild Card series. If he doesn't, I do not.
*You cannot bring your emotional support alligator to a Phillies game.