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Unlike Oakland, Buffalo has a backup snapper ready

By Tim Graham and Jay Skurski

Perhaps you were convinced you've seen the Buffalo Bills lose in every way imaginable over the years.

Those who watched Monday night's late game, however, discovered another nauseating possibility.

A long snapper -- football's most taken-for-granted position -- reminded everyone how important they are by costing the Oakland Raiders their home opener against the San Diego Chargers.

Raiders long snapper Jon Condo was knocked woozy in the second quarter and couldn't continue. Reserve linebacker Travis Goethel was summoned as the emergency snapper, and the results were ridiculous.

Fans of 31 other teams began to wonder who their backup snapper is.

"You just hope it never gets to that point," Bills punter Brian Moorman said.

If anything were to happen to Bills long snapper Garrison Sanborn, then center Eric Wood would handle the job.

"Long snappers are a lot like offensive linemen," Wood said. "The less you hear about them the better it is.

"Garrison does a great job for us. He's really consistent. We'd really be hurting if he went down for sure."

The Raiders were doomed without their starter. Goethel attempted three snaps. He dribbled two that caused seven-time Pro Bowl punter Shane Lechler to get sacked. Lechler's punt was blocked on Goethel's best snap.

"I felt terrible," Sanborn said, "because that's not a fun position to be in at all."

Instead of backing up 140 yards or so, the Chargers turned the Raiders' botched punts into three field goals and won by eight points.

Wood never has long snapped in a game -- high school, college or pro. He didn't start tinkering with it until the NFL scouting combine, when he was entering the 2009 draft. Wood practices being the long snapper about once a week and did so Wednesday.

Moorman and Sanborn sounded confident Wood would be effective in a jam.

"He's good," Sanborn said. "He'll get it back there if he needs to. I know he doesn't want to because he'd just rather play center and let me snap. We'd be fine if we needed to."

Said Moorman: "It's a matter of everybody stepping up and staying stout and sticking with their assignments on the line. For somebody like Eric, he's used to blocking anyway."

Moorman claimed a replacement snapper wouldn't impact him as much as a backup holder would to a placekicker. But he acknowledged it likely would make him think a lot more while waiting for the ball to be delivered.

"You're more worried about where the snap is going more than getting the punt off quicker," Moorman said. "You're going to get it off quickly enough, assuming everybody blocks.

"But you're thinking, 'Am I going to have to jump for it? Move to the right? Move to the left? Or is it going to be right on me?' You're like a goalie. That definitely can affect the kick."

What transpired in Oakland Coliseum on Monday night was a reminder who imperative long snappers are and why teams set aside roster spots specifically for them.

"If you have something go wrong, you see how bad it is," Sanborn said. "The casual fan doesn't see that because hopefully long snappers are doing their jobs and it goes unnoticed."

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham | tgraham@buffnews.com


Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan | mgaughan@buffnews.com


Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski | jskurski@buffnews.com

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