Aaron Nagler speaks with Michael Cohen about the Packers' specialists heading into the NFL draft. (April 24, 2018) USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin
Last in a 10-part NFL draft position-preview series looking at prospects who might be of interest to the Packers. Today: Specialists.
GREEN BAY - There was a moment during Week 3 of the 2017 regular season that saw former Green Bay Packers tight end Richard Rodgers snapping a football along the sideline at Lambeau Field. Innocuous as it seemed, the moment was born of necessity: Long snapper Brett Goode had injured his hamstring, and Rodgers was the team’s emergency replacement.
Finding a position player who also possessed the ability to snap was the tried-and-true method of identifying long snappers until the latter stages of the 20th century. Snapping was a supplementary skill instead of a primary one.
But a participant at this year’s NFL scouting combine demonstrated how far the position has come in the last few decades, from the annual long snapping camps around the country to players who arrive at the professional level with snapping as their gateway to earning a livelihood. And that is why there’s a very real chance Tanner Carew from Oregon will hear his name called on draft weekend as the best long snapper in the 2018 class.
“That’s obviously a huge goal of mine,” Carew said this month. “If any of the organizations are willing to draft me, that would be great, I mean that would be awesome. It’s an amazing opportunity, and it really says something when they’re drafting a long snapper. … It would mean the world to me. It’s what I’ve been working toward my whole life.”
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Carew generated headlines in February as the only long snapper at the scouting combine, where he was asked to bench press with the running backs (18 reps) and run the 40-yard dash with offensive linemen (5.00 seconds). His week lacked the structure bestowed upon more traditional positions, Carew said, but the fact that no other snappers were invited reinforced the successfulness of his dedicated approach from the last few years.
A native of Chino Hills, California, which is 45 minutes east of Los Angeles, Carew attended Damien High School and played tight end, linebacker and long snapper for coach Mark Paredes. It was Paredes who encouraged Carew to pursue long snapping more seriously by attending a camp to boost his national rating. Carew and his father selected Rubio Long Snapping, run by former UCLA long snapper Chris Rubio, and by the time Carew graduated he was the No. 1 ranked snapper in the country.
“Out of that, I mean, a lot of other opportunities came,” Carew said. “I went to the (U.S.) Army All-America Game, then I committed to Oregon just as a long snapper. That was kind of the goal. Then the rest is history.”
At Oregon, where Carew appeared in 52 games over four years, the biggest challenge was gaining weight. Carew said he played his freshman season around 190 pounds — skinny even by wide receiver standards — and began reworking his frame through dietary changes and a commitment to the strength and conditioning program.
Carew started as a freshman and missed only one game despite suffering a torn ACL. After offseason surgery, he delivered each of his 146 snaps as a sophomore without issue. The following year, as a junior, Carew delivered 134 more sans mistake. By the time he arrived at the combine, following a strong appearance at the Senior Bowl that featured two tackles in coverage, Carew had a stellar resume to pair with his 6-foot-1-inch, 243-pound frame. He finished his Oregon career with 5 total tackles on special teams.
“If they ask me what I can do and what I can bring, I always try to say that you’ll never find a guy — at my position I feel like I’m the hardest-working guy out there,” Carew said. “I’m always doing something to try and find an edge on my game, whether it’s yoga, pilates, snapping more, doing field work, in the weight room, stretching. Whatever it is, I’m always trying to do something to, you know, (take) my game to the next level.”
Carew’s skill set could be of particular interest to the Packers, whose attempts at finding a younger, more-athletic alternative to veteran Brett Goode have been wildly unsuccessful. Consider their revolving door of transactions since Dec. 22, 2015, when former general manager Ted Thompson signed Rick Lovato as an injury replacement for Goode:
- Dec. 22, 2015: Packers sign Lovato to replace Goode, who suffered a torn ACL against the Oakland Raiders.
- Aug. 9, 2016: Packers sign Jesse Schmitt to compete with Lovato.
- Aug. 22, 2016: Schmitt released after breaking his hand during his very first practice two weeks prior.
- Sept. 3, 2016: Lovato released during final cuts.
- Sept. 5, 2016: Goode signed off the street to a one-year deal.
- Jan. 27, 2017: Taybor Pepper signed off the street to a reserve/futures contract.
- March 31, 2017: Derek Hart signed off the street to a reserve/futures contract.
- May 08, 2017: Pepper released.
- Aug. 12, 2017: Goode signed off the street to a one-year deal.
- Aug. 28, 2017: Hart released prior to final cuts.
- Sept. 25, 2017: Goode placed on IR (hamstring); Pepper signed off the street.
- Nov. 3, 2017: Pepper placed on IR (broken foot); Hart signed off the street.
- Nov. 14, 2017: Hart released; Goode signed off the street.
- Dec. 27, 2017: Zach Triner signed to a reserve/futures contract.
With Goode once again on the street after his contract expired, Triner is the only long snapper on the roster. If he plays well during organized team activities, minicamp and — assuming he makes it this far — training camp, then the job could certainly be his at the start of the next season. But if he flounders like Lovato, Pepper and Hart before him, then general manager Brian Gutekunst will almost certainly make the familiar call to Goode come August. (It should be noted, however, that Lovato went on to win a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles last season.)
Unless, of course, Gutekunst decides to bolster the long snapper competition with a player such as Carew, who is likely to be drafted in the sixth or seventh round. The Packers have "done a lot of work” studying Carew ahead of the draft, according to a report from Pro Football Weekly, and perhaps this is the year to use a pick on a non-traditional position considering Gutekunst has 12 selections at his disposal.
Perhaps then, after two years of trial and error, the Packers would find their long-term replacement for Goode.
“There’s been activity,” Carew said. “But the teams have kind of asked me not to say stuff, so I’m going to respect their wishes.”