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Long snapper

File:Punt block formation.svg
Diagram of a punt formation, the long snapper or deep snapper is indicated by the blue "DS"
File:Punt block formation.jpg
In the punt formation, the long snapper or deep snapper is the center of the interior line (#58 in blue)

In American football and Canadian football, the term long snapper refers to a center 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 doesn't 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 to .80 seconds[1] A "bad snap" is an off-target snap which causes the delay of a kick or the failure of a play.

In the NFL

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.[2] 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 and normally are acquired as undrafted free agents, with a few exceptions:

  • Ryan Pontbriand has the distinction of being the highest-drafted long snapper in the history of the NFL Draft. He was drafted in the fifth round (142nd overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, although he was drafted as an offensive center.[3]
  • Zak DeOssie, long snapper for the New York Giants, was drafted in the fourth round (116th overall) of the 2007 NFL Draft; however at the time he was drafted as a linebacker.
  • Todd Thomas was selected in the fifth round (124th overall) of the 1981 NFL Draft, for his long snapping abilities, by the Kansas City Chiefs.[4] At the time draft records listed him as a tackle, but he served as the long snapper for the Chiefs during the 1981 season.[5]
  • The first pure long snapper to have been picked in the draft was Tyler Schmitt, a sixth round pick (189th overall) in 2008, selected by the Seattle Seahawks.[6]

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. The Giants during the regular season had 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.[7] Brad St. Louis of the Cincinnati Bengals was another long snapper who, besides having already misexecuted 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 ACL. 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.[8] 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.

External links


  1. ^ Snapping Competition To Play In Under Armour All-America Game
  2. ^
  3. ^ ^ a b "Player Bio – Steve Kidd – Football". Retrieved on 2007-04-30.
  4. ^ 1981 NFL Draft, Round 5
  5. ^ Surprising Chiefs Boot Bucs, 19-10Gainesville Sun, September 14, 1981, accessed August 12, 2011
  6. ^ "Seattle Seahwaks: Tyler Schmitt". Seattle Seahawks. Retrieved 10 February 2014. 
  7. ^ William C. Rhoden (2003-01-06). "Sports of The Times; Kicking Mishap Concludes Story With 2 Views". New York Times. 
  8. ^ Long snapper's injury really hurts Steelers