After Losing Two in One Game, Eagles Are Fighting For Long Snappers
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - There are a lot of small things in life that you don't notice until they're gone.
In the NFL that thesis is defined by the most unheralded man on any roster, the long snapper.
In Philadelphia, it's a more high-profile position than in other cities because of Jon Dorenbos, the 36-year-old veteran who wowed much of the country last year with his performance as a magician on "America's Got Talent" and also grabs headlines for an unthinkable tragedy he endured earlier in his life when his father murdered his mother.
From a football perspective, though, Dorenbos is a lot like every other long snapper in that the only time he gets noticed is when he makes a mistake. That hasn't happened very often in his decade-plus stint with the Eagles, which has resulted in two Pro Bowl berths.
Last December, however, the Eagles lost Dorenbos to a season-ending broken wrist against Washington in-game, a tough blow for any team because few have competent backup long snappers.
The unthinkable then occurred from there as tight end Brent Celek, Dorenbos' replacement who wasn't very good at the job to begin with, also went down.
In crisis mode it seemed like Eagles special teams coach Dave Fipp was holding auditions on the sidelines before another backup tight end, Trey Burton, eventually finished the game.
By the next week, Philadelphia signed an actual long snapper in Rick Lovato to finish the season.
That game against the Redskins is a large reason why the Eagles are the team pushing to expand protections for the long snapper in 2017 at next week's spring meetings.
Philadelphia has proposed a new rule that would prevent the defending team from making contact with the long snapper until a full second after the snap, in theory giving the long snapper enough time to snap the football and raise his head to protect himself better.
The actual wording of the Eagles’ proposal reads, “When a team is in scrimmage kick formation, a defensive player may not initiate contact with the snapper until one second has elapsed after the snap.”
The penalty would fall under an unnecessary roughness violation, which is a backbreaking 15-yard penalty.
For the measure to pass, 24 of the 32 NFL's owners must agree with it and arguing from a safety perspective holds the most weight although making the penalty a little less punitive, say a 5-yard flag may have made the path a little easier.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen