Ravens have a backup long snapper -- even if they're not saying who that is

Injuries to long snappers for the Raiders and Redskins serve as a reminder of how critical it is to develop a backup plan

September 23, 2012|By Edward Lee

Prior to his release in 2011, running back Willis McGahee had another role with the Ravens. He backed up Morgan Cox as the team’s long snapper.

Since then, however, the identity of the latest backup has been shrouded in mystery. Coach John Harbaugh deferred to special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, who in turn declined to disclose the reserve’s identity.

But the value of a backup long snapper has been heightened after what happened to a pair of long snappers on the first weekend of the regular season.

The Washington Redskins’ Nick Sundberg (a former training camp hopeful with the Ravens) broke his left arm during the team’s win against the New Orleans Saints and gritted his way through the pain to finish the game. (The Redskins signed Justin Snow and placed Sundberg on the injured reserve recall list that could have him return in Week 8.)

The Oakland Raiders’ Jon Condo suffered a concussion in a loss to the San Diego Chargers, forcing the team to go with reserve linebacker Travis Goethel. Goethel bounced two snaps to punter Shane Lechler and slowly floated another to him that resulted in three field goals in the Chargers’ 22-14 win.

“That’s a valuable reminder that it can happen at any time,” Harbaugh said. “Their problem wasn’t just the long snapper. I think they had a major protection error twice in a row on those blocked punts. So yeah, it’s really important. It’s one of those things that you better be thinking about. And it’s not just that. There’s 100 other things like that that you have to keep in mind. You might not see it in a whole season, you might not see it in five years, but you always have to have that answer. Backup holder is something you’re always working on. What if your kicker gets hurt? What are you going to do there?”

The Ravens have a pair of centers in Matt Birk and Gino Gradkowski who may have experience at long snapping. Then again, as it did with McGahee, the team could opt for a more unconventional backup.

But until that scenario arises in a game, we may never know. And as Rosburg said, “Hopefully, we’ll never find out.”

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