View Full Version : Merrill: Life as a long snapper

12-13-2005, 02:16 AM

Whom should we blame? The kicker? The snapper? The holder?


The Kansas City Star

For 14 years, Gammon has made a crazy living firing a piece of aired-up leather between his legs.

Nobody understands what long snappers do. And nobody cares until something goes wrong. Gammon was fighting the stomach flu and nursing a broken leg Sunday night when Ed Perry’s snap came in low and inside. The Chiefs missed the field goal as time expired in a 31-28 loss at Dallas, and by Monday, fingers were being pointed at everybody from the kicker to the snapper to the general manager who signed the snapper.

“(Our) job description,” Gammon said, “is to snap the ball and get the crap knocked out of you. Only in America.”

By the time the team plane arrived in Kansas City, Perry was already taking a beating. Coach Dick Vermeil said he became concerned about Perry last week when Perry’s snaps were inconsistent in practice. On Monday, when asked whether the Chiefs might look for somebody to take Perry’s job, Vermeil said: “It’s something we’re evaluating right now.”

Perry arrived in Kansas City three weeks ago after Gammon broke his right fibula in the Houston game. Before the Chiefs called, Perry was unemployed from the NFL for about three months. But people in Miami said Perry rarely botched a snap in his eight seasons with the Dolphins, and he had a rather anonymous career before Sunday’s developments.

That’s the life of a snapper. Gammon was one of the first players to be used exclusively as a long snapper in the early 1990s. He is in on roughly eight to 14 plays a game. While 70,000 or so fans are fixed on the kicker, the quarterback or anyone else, about the only one studying Gammon is his wife.

His rituals are always the same. On first down, he holds a towel and makes sure he doesn’t get any foreign objects on his hands. He clutches his helmet. On second down, he puts his helmet on and stretches. He snaps up and sticks in his mouthpiece on third down. At this point, Gammon begins to talk to himself, saying something like, “Let’s get this done.”

If the Chiefs get a first down, his routine starts all over again. His placement snaps must rotate exactly 3 1/2 times. The laces have to be straight forward when the ball lands in holder Dustin Colquitt’s hands.

Velocity and accuracy are crucial. A cool head doesn’t hurt, either. The two guys in front of the snapper generally weigh 300 pounds. They’re charging toward him while he’s still in a vulnerable position.

“It hurts a lot less after a good snap,” Gammon said.

The work is measured in milliseconds. Gammon said the goal in punting situations is to get the ball from the snapper and kicked by the punter in 2.1 seconds or fewer. Gammon fires the ball to the punter in .72 seconds. The average NFL long snapper does it in .80.

On field-goal and extra-point attempts, the timing is about 1.3 seconds from snap to kick. The Chiefs are normally below 1.25.

Asked Monday whether Perry’s three-month absence from the NFL affected his timing and rhythm, Vermeil said: “It can’t help him.”

The Chiefs have at least other two in-house options at long snapper — defensive end Jared Allen and offensive tackle Chris Bober. Allen filled in for Gammon when he went down in Houston, and he did some snaps last week in practice.

“We all know that Jared Allen is a fine long snapper,” Vermeil said. “(But) he hasn’t come out of the ballgame in three weeks. He’s on the kickoff return team, and I wanted to take him out the other day and he wouldn’t come out. He likes to play.

“But to add the responsibility of long snapping too? I don’t know. I might do it. There probably isn’t anything he wouldn’t do if you asked him to … wear a wig, a hula skirt, whatever.”

Maybe then, a long snapper would finally get some attention.

“We’re spoiled here having Kendall Gammon, who is just automatic,” Vermeil said.

“Hopefully we just didn’t take it for granted that it would get done properly. Because it was not a good snap, so the focus is on him just like it wasn’t a good block, just like someone dropped an interception and somebody got called for a penalty.”

12-13-2005, 02:27 AM
Chiefs may let DE Jared Allen do the snapping

Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - In Ed Perry's first game last month after replacing one of the league's great long-snappers, Kansas City tied an NFL field goal record.

Two weeks later, fans are ready to ferry Perry down the Missouri River and find someone else to step in for injured Pro Bowler Kendall Gammon. And maybe the Chiefs are, too.

But instead of grabbing someone else off the street, they're thinking about turning to second-year defensive end Jared Allen. He's willing to give it the old college try, but he hasn't snapped in live action since he was in college in 2003. And one bad snap can be fatal for a team that needs to win its last three games to have much chance of reaching the playoffs.

"I might do it," coach Dick Vermeil said Monday. "I thought about it last week."

No one is saying it was Perry's fault the Chiefs (8-5) lost 31-28 to Dallas on Sunday, dropping into a three-way tie with San Diego and Pittsburgh for the final AFC wild-card spot. The demoralizing loss left several key players with their heads down, including running back Larry Johnson, cornerback Patrick Surtain and linebacker Derrick Johnson.

But Perry, a former long-snapper for Miami, was guilty of a poor snap on the final play of the tense, back-and-forth game. And he's a lot easier to replace than a starting linebacker, cornerback or running back.

The snap, after the Chiefs had surged down field in the final seconds, was low and inside. Although holder Dustin Colquitt managed to get the ball down, Lawrence Tynes' 41-yard attempt to send the game into overtime sailed wide right.

Ironically, Tynes had kicked four field goals in one quarter, tying an NFL mark, in Perry's first game on Nov. 27 against New England.

But Vermeil admitted Monday he has been concerned about Perry's consistency in practice.

"It isn't simple. It takes a lot of work," Vermeil said. "Kendall Gammon has done it as well as it's ever been done, probably. And we have a couple of other guys that can do it pretty good. They've just never made a living doing it."

Backup guard Chris Bober is another possibility. But Vermeil disclosed that all last week he had Allen practicing the long-snapping skills he developed at Idaho State.

One reason not to impose this additional burden on the 6-foot-6, 270-pounder, however, is that he already has a pretty important day job.

He's the Chiefs' best pass-rusher. After recording nine sacks last season as a rookie, he already 10 in 13 games this year, including two against the Cowboys.

He also plays on special teams and does just about everything else but direct traffic into the stadium.

"He hasn't come out of a ballgame in three weeks," Vermeil said. "I'm not saying that's really what I want to do. But that's just how it's happened. And he's on the kickoff return team, the wedge. I wanted to take him out of there the other day and he wouldn't come out. He likes to play. Then add the responsibility of long-snapping, too? I don't know."

Ideally, long-snappers do very little else for a team. Gammon, who broke his leg at Houston on Nov. 20, was the ultimate specialist, and universally acknowledged as one of the best ever.

Allen, as a defensive lineman, could easily get his hands cut and bruised during a game. It might not be anything to keep him from rushing the passer or making tackles. But it could be enough to prevent him from making the precise and delicately timed snap on a critical field goal.

"He's got his hands all taped up," Vermeil said. "You don't know when he's going to get his hand stepped on. Then all of a sudden you've got to go do it and you don't have another long-snapper suited up. Defensive linemen fight with their hands. There's all kinds of things - injury concerns, exposure to that kind of position, with your head down, your legs wide. He's your best pass rusher."

Bob Dole
12-13-2005, 05:46 AM
“We’re spoiled here having Kendall Gammon, who is just automatic,” Vermeil said.

That bears repeating.

12-13-2005, 08:56 AM
When Gammon went down I just knew it would come back to haunt us. I knew it would be a guaranteed missed field goal somewhere down the road.

12-13-2005, 09:04 AM
Mamas, let your babies grow up to long snappers.

Maybe they should go see Olympic gymnaists and ice skaters and see how they get it right almost every time.

Hammock Parties
12-13-2005, 09:07 AM
If I was an NFL football player, my top two career choices would be:

1. 3rd-string QB.

2. Long snapper.

Fire Me Boy!
12-13-2005, 09:16 AM
I thought this was worth repeating...

“But to add the responsibility of long snapping too? I don’t know. I might do it. There probably isn’t anything he wouldn’t do if you asked him to … wear a wig, a hula skirt, whatever.”

There's a distinct possibility he'd wear a wig and a hula skirt because it's Tuesday. I love Jared Allen, but he's a freak! Funny as hell, but a freak! Anyone remember when he showed up to practice on Halloween last year wearing nothing but a Speedo, a swim cap and his buddy's Olympic medal? ROFL

Fire Me Boy!
12-13-2005, 09:18 AM
If I was an NFL football player, my top two career choices would be:

1. 3rd-string QB.

2. Long snapper.
Hire gochiefs and fire Damon Huard! DAMMIT CARL! :cuss:

Hammock Parties
12-13-2005, 09:26 AM
Hire gochiefs and fire Damon Huard! DAMMIT CARL! :cuss:

It's a push. We'd both dive for first downs given the opportunity. I might end up running someone over of course.

Rain Man
12-13-2005, 09:28 AM
How did I miss the fact that Gammon broke his leg? I thought it was just a hamstring or something.

Fire Me Boy!
12-13-2005, 09:30 AM
How did I miss the fact that Gammon broke his leg? I thought it was just a hamstring or something.
Obviously you share more with Raymond than just a nickname.