Spencer Ware watched the football bounce toward a mass of Steelers 5 yards away.
Oh no. Not again.
So when a Steelers defender jumped on top of it and the Heinz Field crowd roared in the first quarter of the Chiefs’ 43-14 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday Night Football, Ware had absolutely no chance of holding in his emotions.
Ware, a 24-year-old bruising running back, had fumbled for the third straight game, and he ... was ... ticked. He pounded both fists into the grass three times and pounded his right fist into the ground twice before rising to his feet.
When he got to the sideline, the anger didn’t subside. He rocked back and forth on the bench as at least five teammates — including quarterback Alex Smith, fullback Anthony Sherman, receiver Albert Wilson and outside linebacker Dadi Nicolas — tried to reassure him.
“He cares,” Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy said of Ware. “He cares.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid also stopped by Ware on the bench, offered some words of encouragement and placed his hand on Ware’s helmet.
“No excuse,” said Ware, who finished the game with 82 yards in 13 carries. “Protect it.”
And while no one was happy — least of all the super-intense Bieniemy, who could be seen yelling at Ware for what seemed like minutes after his fumble against the Houston Texans two weeks earlier — the Chiefs didn’t give up on Ware. On their very next offensive play, at their own 12, he took a handoff up the middle for 2 yards.
“Helps the psyche,” Bieniemy said.
“That kid played hard. And when it was all said and done, you know what? He played his (butt) off the rest of the game.”
Bieniemy was quick to point out that one of Ware’s fumbles — against the Jets in Week 3 — came as he attempted to stretch the ball toward the pylon for a touchdown. The play was ruled a touchback when the ball wobbled from Ware’s grasp as he was hit.
“The kid was trying to make a play — you can’t ever fault him for that,” Bieniemy said. “I don’t even count that one.”
But the other two? Yep, those were on Ware, a third-year pro who said he had not fumbled in high school, college or the pros before this year but needs to do a better job of securing the football in close quarters.
“The two he’s had have happened similar,” said Bieniemy, who was cautious not to share too many details. “It’s more about him than what they’re doing.”
“We’ll get that fixed,” Reid said. “He has not traditionally been a fumbler. He’ll understand why (it’s happening). There’s some reasons there we can help him out (with).”
And you can believe this much: Bieniemy, who regularly uses his booming voice (which reverberates throughout practice) to cajole, instruct and teach his backs how to do things the right way, is going to be on him every step of the way until he does.
Bieniemy wants to make sure that fumbling doesn’t become a “thing” for Ware, who otherwise boasts a terrific 5.3 yards per carry on 54 attempts as the Chiefs’ No. 1 back this season.
“At the end of the day, we get paid to hold on to the ball,” Bieniemy said. “My job is to make sure we’re doing it the correct way.”
And there’s little doubt, especially after Ware’s display of emotion following his latest fumble, that Ware shares that desire.
“We just have to execute,” Ware said. “I have to do my job and take care of the football. That’s it.”