The NFL received a wake-up call on Monday night during the Raiders-Chargers matchup in Oakland. Long snapper is often regarded as an under-the-radar position in the NFL, but when Oakland Pro Bowler Jon Condo went out with an injury, the art of long snapping was put on center stage.
Travis Goethel was pressed into emergency long-snapping duty and had trouble finding punter Shane Lechler with consistency, showing how crucial the position can be. On Tuesday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told KNBR that second-year lineman Daniel Kilgore is the team’s second-string long snapper behind veteran Brian Jennings.
“You’ve always got to be ready at any position if you’re a backup,” Kilgore said. “You go in through the week and you practice and you get your reps in, so you just have to be ready for whenever the situation comes.”
In its no-stone-left-unturned approach, the 49ers coaching staff has Kilgore practice his long snapping on a daily basis. But as Kilgore pointed out, getting a punt off in time is a team-wide job.
“Everybody wants to blame the guy for the bad snaps that hit the ground and everything,” Kilgore said. “But what about the tackle that missed the block? It’s not just the bad snaps, there’s 11 guys on the field that have a job.”
Kilgore and linebacker Larry Grant split duties as emergency long snapper last year, but were never pressed into duty. Jennings, who at 13 years of service is the longest-tenured player on the 49ers, has established himself as one of the game’s most effective long snappers throughout his career.
“It’s extremely difficult,” Jennings said. “Our job is to make it look easy.”
There are several nuances that go along with Jennings’ specialized position. For one, the kicker balls used in the game are much slicker than the footballs players practice with throughout the week.
“The K-ball rules make it a completely different animal than what you snap in practice,” Jennings said. “For a rookie snapper or a young snapper or a backup to go in and snap the ball effectively, it’s a really tough challenge.”
Not only that, but long snappers must be sharp with their stance, their hand placement and their release point. As football fans found out on Monday night, long snappers have no room for error.
“There’s a lot of different things that can happen,” Jennings said.
Tags: Brian Jennings, Daniel Kilgore
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