A quarterback’s grip on the football is one of the fundamental building blocks of his success. Without a proper grip, not only will passes fly off target but also even handing the ball off correctly can be a challenge. Some quarterbacks wear gloves to maintain a good grip in poor weather, and some others wear gloves in all conditions -- wet, dry, warm or cold.
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Wearing Gloves in Rain or Shine
A quarterback with a relatively small hand -- such as former Chicago Bears signal-caller Jim McMahon -- may find the ball slipping from his grasp in all weather conditions, so a tight glove can help him retain firm control. A few quarterbacks who lack strength in their throwing hands because of injuries may wear gloves for the same reason. For example, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning began wearing a glove regularly after his neck surgery affected nerves that help him grip the ball. Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions wore a glove after breaking a finger on his throwing hand but dropped the glove after his finger healed.
Warming Up to Gloves
Some quarterbacks, such as Carson Palmer of the Arizona Cardinals, wear a glove in extremely cold temperatures to avoid having their hands go numb and, therefore, losing feeling. Former pro quarterback Doug Flutie, on the other hand, says gloves didn’t help keep his throwing hand warm but still helped him grip the ball better in cold weather. When the temperatures drop, footballs become harder and more slippery. Others don gloves when it rains. Gloves specifically designed for quarterbacks have non-slip surfaces that help prevent a wet football from sliding out of their grasp.
All Glove, All the Time
The decision to wear a glove is a personal choice. Although most quarterbacks who wear gloves do so because of poor weather or an injury, an occasional quarterback will like the feel of throwing with a glove so much that he continues to wear one in warm, dry weather. Jeff Garcia, a veteran of both the Canadian Football League and NFL, always wore gloves in the CFL because the league used new -- and more slippery -- footballs. He didn’t wear gloves during his NFL career because the balls were less slippery.
A few quarterbacks wear gloves on their non-throwing hands -- typically the left hand -- for comfort in cold weather, but typically don’t wear gloves on their throwing hands. Count New England Patriots star Tom Brady among the left-glove wearers, although he occasionally wears a glove on his throwing hand in poor weather.
No Love for the Glove
Some quarterbacks shun gloves because they believe they can’t feel the ball as well, and therefore can’t control their passes when their hands are covered. Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler told ESPN that he tried gloves but won’t wear them because “I like to be able to feel the ball.”