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One Of Longest Tenured Bengals, Clark Harris Shows Rookie Cal Adomitis It Is Not A Snap

Clark Harris lending a helping hand.
Clark Harris lending a helping hand.

Clark Harris, whose Bengals career is as long as one of his snaps, thinks he has a pretty good grasp on the short-term when he looks at rookie long snapper Cal Adomitis.

"I truly believe he'll be the guy here after me," Harris said this week after a voluntary workout. "Whether it's this year, next year, two years, how long it is. I think he'll be the next snapper here after me. He's good."

He has seen the future and it's not him. Both of them can't make it and after 1,874 straight playable snaps as a Bengal, 15 NFL seasons, 205 NFL games, one world record for the longest snap, a Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl, Harris isn't giving up the job, either.

And special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons isn't giving it away to Adomitis, the only long snapper invited to this last NFL scouting combine and clearly the best one in this crop when the Bengals signed him after the draft.

"It will be up to (Adomitis)," Simmons says. "If he can make the adjustments that he needs to make and does them well, he'll give himself a fighting chance. If not, it will be more difficult on him."

Put long snapping right there with shooting free throws and dropping ten pounds. It's not as easy as it looks. Just ask punter and holder Kevin Huber, one of the beneficiaries of Harris' no-fault snapping these 13 years.

"The position with the biggest difference between the NFL and college is long snapper," Huber says. "They never block in college. It's completely different. Completely different technique. Here, they snap it, move backwards and find who to block. And knowing the protections and the stunts, it takes a lot more than just snapping and running down the field like they do in college."

Harris is an old-school guy. Back in the day, Rutgers, like everyone else, ran a pro-style punt game and he had to block. That also meant he had to be aware of defenses trying to knife in between him with stunts and games.

"Now," Harris said, "everyone in college is running that wide spread and just taking off with no blocking."

Adomitis, Pittsburgh born and bred, is no dummy. A Blue-Gold Award winner presented to University of Pittsburgh athletes representing the student-athlete ideal based on academic scholarship, athletic achievement, leadership qualities and citizenship, Adomitis figured it out quickly.

(The old days are so old that Adomitis says Pitt linebackers coach Ryan Manalac roomed with Huber when they played at the University of Cincinnati.)

"These were things I've heard before," Adomitis says of the adjustments. "But when I see how good of a snapper Clark is, I'm like, 'All right, these are things I definitely need to be working on.'"

They range from recognizing defenses, getting his head up faster after the snap, putting more of his non-snapping hand on the ball and taking something off his bullet field-goal snaps.

Look easy?

"I guess that's why I'm in my 16th year in the league and 14th here. That's why we're here," Harris said. "We make it look easy. That's anybody. Quarterback, running back, wide receiver. We're still doing the right thing. Still doing it well. That's why we're here."

Harris, who turns 38 next month, has been here longer than anybody but Huber in 201 Bengals games, the third most in team history. The only current long snapper who has been in the NFL longer is the Panthers' J.J. Jansen with 209 games to his 205. (Harris played four games with the 2008 Texans.)

According to Elias, Harris is currently 13th on the NFL's most games played list. Huber, with 207, is 11th, one ahead of Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater, and third among punters with Andy Lee at 280 and Brett Kern at 219.

Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady's 318 games leads the league, nearly 100 more than the other two quarterbacks ahead of Harris, the Colts' Matt Ryan with 222 and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers with 213. Three kickers, Robbie Gould (249), Mason Crosby (241) and Matt Prater (220) are also ahead of Harris, as well as Packers tight end Marcedes Lewis (234) and Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell (213).

Harris figures the longest he'll play is two more years. He'd like it to be here ("I've been a Bengal for 13 years and I'd like to keep it that way,") but he's not going to turn his back on the guy looking to take his job. Adomitis says, "I give him lot of credit helping me out. No matter which one suits up this year, we'll be one of the best long snappers in the league just by our competition."

Harris says Adomitis is the best the Bengals have brought in to face him and while he wants to keep the job, he'll help him.

"I'm not going to be a (jerk) about it. Like 'Figure it out yourself,'" Harris said. "I've been here 16 years. If someone is going to be better than me … It's not like it would be a waste of time and it was like 'There's no helping this guy.'

"Just (suggesting) a couple of adjustments. Nothing crazy. I don't want to try and change everything. Like you go golfing with someone and you say, 'Why don't you do this?' and suddenly they can't hit the ball any more. Just little things I was never taught and just try to pass it on to him."

Like putting his off hand more on the ball.

"Just building more trust in my left hand to have more control on the ball," Adomitis said. "Growing up and learning to snap, you're obviously always dominant with whatever hand you're snapping with. As you get older, if you can become not quite ambidextrous but just trust that other hand to guide it and flip the ball more, that will help the ball stay straighter and fly cleaner."

Like taking something off his rapid field-goal and point-after-snaps.

"He was firing it back there," Harris said of Adomitis early on. "That's OK on punts to give the punter time to do what he wants with the ball, but on field goals it's about accuracy and not speed. He was snapping it 40 to 60 percent faster than me. They were still accurate and everything, but the laces were all over the place because he was really trying to pinch it and really fire it. Just let the ball kind of do its own thing. Just pretty much move your arms."

Adomitis has been listening and watching.

"I've been more of the mindset of driving the wrist through, which helps the rotation," Adomitis said. "But there's a lot more emphasis just on the touch. Putting it back there with a tight spiral but also with an easy speed for the holder to catch. That's something I've been working on as well."

Harris has a rep for being a bit out of the box and Adomitis gets that, too.

"I think all specialists are wired differently," Adomitis said.

Harris was intrigued by the photos on Twitter when Adomitis signed. He had the long, flowing hair like him.

"Just real disappointed," said Harris with a smile. "He had the long hair and everyone was saying, 'Oh, he'll just step right in behind Clark and we'll never know Clark left.' Then he gets here and his hair is cut and he's got a big beard. I'm saying, 'Oh man, what happened to the long hair?'"

Adomitis showed up as the picture of reality.

"I was the best in college. But that doesn't mean you're going to be the best in the NFL and there are definitely things you can do to always be improving," says Adomitis, who knows it's not as easy as Harris makes it look. "Hopefully, I'm still playing when I'm Clark's age and hopefully still improving at that point, too."