Long snapper

In gridiron football, the long snapper (or deep snapper) is a special teams specialist whose duty is to snap the football over a longer distance, typically around 15 yards during punts, and 7–8 yards during field goals and extra point attempts.

During field goals and point after touchdown, the snap is received by the holder typically 7–8 yards away. During punt plays the snap is delivered to the punter from 13–15 yards away. Following a punt snap the snapper often executes a blocking assignment and then must cover the kick by running downfield and attempting to stop the opposing team's punt returner from advancing the ball in the opposite direction. If the punt goes uncaught it is the snapper's responsibility to make sure the ball does not enter the endzone or bounce backward resulting in loss of yards. The majority of snappers at the highest levels of competition are specialized, meaning that they uniquely play the position of snapper, or have limited responsibilities elsewhere.

A good punt snap should hit the target (namely the punter's hands at the abdomen or waistline) between .65 and .80 seconds[1] and with a tight spiral for easy handling. A "bad snap" is an off-target snap which causes the delay or failure of a kick and/or forces the punter into a potentially compromising situation.

Punt block formation
Diagram of a punt formation, the long snapper is indicated by the blue "DS"
Punt block formation
In the traditional or "cup" punt formation, the long snapper is the center of the interior line (#58 in blue)
Special Teams
Traditional field goal formation with the long snapper in the center

In the NCAA

College rules are such that any of the 11 players on the punting team are allowed to proceed downfield at any time once the play has begun (unlike the NFL where only 2 players, the left and right gunner, are allowed to pass the line of scrimmage before the ball has been kicked). This results in many teams employing a "spread punt" or "rugby-style" scheme designed to maximize downfield coverage and limit returners from making larger gains the other way after receiving the ball.

In addition, in the NCAA defensive players who play opposite of the long snapper are not allowed to initiate contact with the long snapper until 1 second after the ball has been snapped.[2]

In the NFL

Unlike college, NFL rules do not provide for a set period of time after the snap before the long snapper can be engaged by the defense. However, no defensive player can line up directly in front of the long snapper when the offense is in a kick formation. Officials generally enforce this rule through verbal admonishment to an offending player prior to the snap. If the defensive lineman moves into a legal position before the snap, no flag is thrown.

Before specialization, the long snapper was often a player who primarily played another position, mostly assumed to be backup centers because they perform snap duties to quarterbacks, and further out in a shotgun formation anyway, but a recent example would be Allen Aldridge, who started at linebacker for the Detroit Lions and also served as the team's long snapper.[3] This allowed the team to dress another non-specialist player. Now, every team in the NFL has a specialized long snapper. Long snappers are usually amongst the least known players in the NFL, because of their highly specialized and relatively invisible role on the field. They are also in general not drafted, rarely appear on trading cards, and normally are acquired as undrafted free agents, with a few exceptions:

Despite their anonymity, a team lacking a skilled long snapper can be seriously undermined. A famous example of this was on January 5, 2003 during the 2002 wild card playoff game between the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants. During the regular season, the Giants suffered missed field goals due to the lack of an experienced long snapper, and signed Trey Junkin out of retirement to be the snapper for the playoff game. Junkin botched a snap on a field goal attempt that could have won the game for the Giants, who had led 38–14 at one point in the game.[10] Brad St. Louis of the Cincinnati Bengals was another long snapper who, besides having already botched two snaps in clutch situations in 2005 (wild card play-off game against the eventual champions Pittsburgh Steelers) and 2006, gained even bigger notoriety in 2009, when he delivered five bad snaps on either field goal or extra point attempts (leading to missed, aborted or blocked kicks) in the first five games of the season, which led to the then ten-year veteran being released from the team.

In 2008, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers that had long snapper problems. During the October 26, 2008 game against the New York Giants, the team's regular long snapper Greg Warren was injured with what was eventually revealed to be a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament. Linebacker James Harrison, who had served in 2003 as the long snapper for the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe, volunteered to replace Warren. In the fourth quarter, Harrison's first and only snap sailed over punter Mitch Berger's head and through the end zone for a safety. This tied the score and gave the Giants good field position on the ensuing kick, resulting in the go-ahead touchdown late in the game.[11] Warren sustained a second ACL tear in December 2009, though this occurred on the last play of the December 20 game against the Green Bay Packers, giving the Steelers adequate time to sign replacement Jared Retkofsky, who had also been signed to replace Warren after his injury in 2008.

In 2012, Raiders' long snapper Jon Condo was injured and was backed up by Travis Goethel, a linebacker for a game against the San Diego Chargers. On two occasions during the game, punter Shane Lechler was unable to handle snaps that had bounced prior to reaching him. On another attempt, Lechler took his position much closer to the line of scrimmage than is normal for a punter so as to decrease the distance Goethel needed to accurately snap the ball. Though the snap was adequate, the decreased distance resulted in a block.

References

  1. ^ Kohl's Kicking Camps (29 July 2013). "Snapping Competition To Play In Under Armour All-America Game" – via YouTube.
  2. ^ "NFL and NCAA Rules Regarding Snappers". 29 August 2010.
  3. ^ "Texans Sign Free-Agent LB Aldridge". Archived from the original on 2012-11-05.
  4. ^ 1981 NFL Draft, Round 5
  5. ^ Surprising Chiefs Boot Bucs, 19-10Gainesville Sun, September 14, 1981, accessed August 12, 2011
  6. ^ "Draft report on Patrick Mannelly". Chicago Tribune. 1998-04-20.
  7. ^ Biggs, Brad (January 15, 2019). "Patrick Mannelly Award created to honor college football's best long snapper: 'They need to be recognized'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  8. ^ "Player Bio – Steve Kidd – Football". Retrieved on 2007-04-30.
  9. ^ "Seattle Seahawks: Tyler Schmitt". Seattle Seahawks. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  10. ^ William C. Rhoden (2003-01-06). "Sports of The Times; Kicking Mishap Concludes Story With 2 Views". New York Times.
  11. ^ "Long snapper's injury really hurts Steelers".
Positions in American football and Canadian football
Offense (Skill position) Defense Special teams
Linemen Guard, Tackle, Center Linemen Tackle, End Kicking players Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System) Linebacker Snapping Long snapper, Holder
Backs Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat), Fullback, H-back, Wingback Backs Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback Returning Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman
Receivers Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End Tackling Gunner, Upback, Utility
Formations (List)NomenclatureStrategy
Aaron Brewer

Aaron Brewer (born July 5, 1990) is an American football long snapper for the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League (NFL). Brewer signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He played college football at San Diego State.

Carson Tinker

Carson Tinker (born November 15, 1989) is an American football long snapper who is currently a free agent. Tinker played college football for the Alabama Crimson Tide, where was a member of their 2009 National Championship team and played as the starting long snapper for both the 2011 and 2012 national championship teams. He was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

Casey Kreiter

Casey Kreiter (born August 13, 1990) is an American football long snapper for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Iowa.

Danny Aiken

Daniel Lee Aiken (born August 28, 1988) is an American football long snapper who is currently a free agent. He was signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He played college football at Virginia after a prep year at Fork Union Military Academy.

Don Muhlbach

Donald Lynn Muhlbach Jr. (born August 17, 1981) is an American football long snapper for the Detroit Lions of the National Football League (NFL). Muhlbach played college football for Texas A&M University. He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2004 by the Baltimore Ravens and later signed with the Detroit Lions that same year, where he has played since.

Greg Warren (American football)

Gregory Robert Warren (born October 18, 1981) is a former American football long snapper. He was originally signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted free agent in 2005. He played college football at North Carolina.

Warren earned two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers in Super Bowl XL over the Seattle Seahawks and Super Bowl XLIII over the Arizona Cardinals.

Joe Cardona

Joseph Cardona (born April 16, 1992) is an American football long snapper for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). As a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Cardona is also an officer in the U.S. Naval Reserve holding the rank of Lieutenant Junior Grade.Cardona was drafted in the fifth round (166th overall) of the 2015 NFL draft. He played college football for Navy. He is only the fourth player designated as a long snapper ever to be drafted, and the second highest-drafted long snapper in NFL history, after Ryan Pontbriand. He was the snapper for the 2016-17 Patriots in their Super Bowl LI win over the Atlanta Falcons and the 2018-19 Patriots in their Super Bowl LIII win over the Los Angeles Rams.

Jon Condo

Jonathan Condo (born August 26, 1981) is an American football long snapper who is currently a free agent. He played college football for the University of Maryland and was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2005. He then spent 12 seasons with the Oakland Raiders, with whom he was selected for the Pro Bowl twice.

Jon Dorenbos

Jonathan Paul Dorenbos (; born July 21, 1980) is a former American football long snapper and magician. He played college football at the University of Texas at El Paso and was signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2003. Dorenbos also played for the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles, with whom he played 11 seasons and played in 162 consecutive games. After getting traded to the New Orleans Saints in the 2017 preseason, it was discovered Dorenbos had an aortic aneurysm that required immediate surgery and ended his career. The trade was rescinded and the Eagles returned the pick to the Saints. The Eagles would go on to win Super Bowl LII that season, and it was announced Dorenbos would get an honorary ring.Dorenbos has a parallel career as a professional magician. He was a finalist on season 11 of the television program America's Got Talent, performing his magic acts. He finished in third place for the season.

Josh Harris (long snapper)

Josh Harris (born April 27, 1989) is an American football long snapper for the Atlanta Falcons of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for Auburn University. He signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

Kendall Gammon

Kendall Robert Gammon (born October 23, 1968) is a former American football long snapper and tight end who played for three teams in the National Football League. In 2004, Gammon was the first pure long-snapper to be selected for the Pro Bowl. Gammon currently serves as the field reporter and pre-game host for the Kansas City Chiefs' radio broadcasts on "101 The Fox".

L. P. Ladouceur

Louis-Philippe Ladouceur (born March 13, 1981) is a Canadian-born American football long snapper for the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at California.

Morgan Cox

Morgan Cox (born April 26, 1986) is an American football long snapper for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League (NFL). He was signed by the Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He played college football at Tennessee.

Nick Sundberg

Nick Sundberg (born July 29, 1987) is an American football long snapper for the Washington Redskins in the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at the University of California. He signed with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2009. He was also a member of the Baltimore Ravens.

Rick Lovato

Richard Peter "Rick" Lovato Jr. (born September 9, 1992) is an American football long snapper for the Philadelphia Eagles of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Old Dominion. Lovato was signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He has also played for the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins.

Ryan Benjamin (long snapper)

Ryan Arthur Benjamin (born November 17, 1977) is a former American football long snapper of the National Football League. He was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in 2001. He played college football at South Florida.

He won a Super Bowl ring as a member of the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Ryan King

Ryan King (born April 21, 1988) is a Canadian football long snapper for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL).

Sean McDermott (long snapper)

Sean McDermott (born December 5, 1976) is a former American football long snapper / tight end in the National Football League. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001. He played college football at Kansas.

Zak DeOssie

Zackary Robert DeOssie (born May 24, 1984) is an American football long snapper for the New York Giants of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for Brown University, and was drafted by the Giants in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL Draft. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection as a long snapper. DeOssie has earned two Super Bowl rings with the Giants in Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI, both over his hometown New England Patriots. He is the son of former NFL linebacker Steve DeOssie; the two hold the distinction of being the only father-son duo to win Super Bowls with the same franchise.

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