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Bengals Notebook: From St. Louis To State Of Cal's NFL Debut, How Simmons' Long Snappers Evolved; Tee Higgins (Questionable) Goes Full

Brad St. Louis back in the day.
Brad St. Louis back in the day.

Darrin Simmons, the famously superstitious and notoriously demanding Bengals special teams coordinator, has given rookie Cal Adomitis what amounts to a ringing endorsement for Sunday's game in Dallas (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) and the long-snapper's NFL debut.

"I'll sleep well," said Simmons Friday, which is about as good as it gets because he'd tell you if he was tossing and turning.

"He works as hard as anyone I've been around at that position," Simmons said.

Kevin Huber, who has handled all four Simmons snappers as the punter and holder, also has a good feel for Adomitis since Simmons, "wouldn't have him around if he didn't belong."

Which shows you how the position has morphed along with the popularity of the game in general.

Even a short few years ago it would have been unheard of to think of a team keeping around a rookie snapper for an entire training camp, then develop him on the practice squad and then summon him when needed the next game, which happened Sunday in the middle of the opener when Clark Harris' 89 consecutive game streak snapped with his bicep.

Not too long ago, during the game a flurry of texts and calls would had to have been made by scouts looking to bring in long snappers to try out during the next week while backup tight end Mitchell Wilcox finished the game.

But a post-pandemic expanded practice squad, relentless specialization and spotlight moments like Sunday when Harris' absence contributed to costing the Bengals an AFC North game have turned long snappers from circus acts into roster staples.

All they had to do was turn to Adomitis, who had already figured it out standing on the sidelines that he'd be working in Dallas.

"Darrin has a good eye for long snappers," Huber said.

And Huber can go all the way back to Simmons' first Bengals long snapper. Brad St. Louis, a seventh-rounder out of then Southwest Missouri State in the first draft of the century, was the first long snapper drafted by the Bengals.

He also played tight end and covered kickoffs in the three seasons before Simmons arrived in 2003, but once that happened it looked like Simmons specialized him and had him doing only one thing.

"Probably," Simmons said.

When St. Louis went to college, they didn't know he long snapped. When the incumbent snapper told the coach he couldn't stay unless he got a full scholarship, the coach asked who could do it and St. Louis, who taught himself watching VHS tapes, raised his hand.

Now fast-forward the VHS a generation and here is Lance St. Louis, the No. 1-rated long snapper in the country signing with Texas on a full ride earlier this year.

"He visited Texas and then he was going to go visit Arkansas," Brad St. Louis said of his oldest. "But when they offered, that was a car trip we didn't have to take."

Yes, it seems like high school long snappers are rated now and recruited like quarterbacks. But only after attending such showcases as the Kohl's kicking and long snapping camps. Lance played a little tight end, but he was snapping right away in high school and actually stepped in as a sophomore in the Arizona playoffs and helped Williams Field High School of the East Valley to a state title.

"I helped coach his flag football teams and I didn't think he was ready for tackle (until he got to high school)," St. Louis said. "Since he was my son, we would talk about it and play around with it. And the thing is, he really likes to work. He did everything the way I did it. He looked just like me and then when he went to the camps, they would tweak a few things."

St. Louis can understand why the youth players are deciding at an earlier age to try to long snapping.

"I think they see they might be tweeners and they're not going to be rated the No. 1 defensive end or tight end or whatever it may be," St. Louis said. "But they're looking for a niche to get a scholarship."

St. Louis, who was the Bengals third tight end until Simmons put a stop to that, actually played 30 snaps from scrimmage in a 2001 game Marco Battaglia missed with appendicitis and Tony McGee tore his MCL late in the first half.

At 6-5, 250 pounds, Harris, still listed as a tight end on pro football, broke in as a big, athletic tight end as Green Bay's seventh-round pick in 2008.

"Early in his career," Simmons said, "he was an excellent tackler who got down field. Super athletic."

All hell may break loose in Dallas, but Adomitis isn't going to be playing a position. The snapper's evolution is complete, although Adomitis played fullback and tight end at Pittsburgh Central Catholic and practiced with the linebackers at the University of Pittsburgh.

"I went to the (Kohl's) camps when I was a senior in high school and then I went every summer in college to work on my development," Adomitis said.

St. Louis is in the health coaching business, as well as the strength coach at Williams Field High, where Lance's younger brother is a wrestler. When a camp for long snappers coming into the 2022 draft was held earlier this year out that way, St. Louis helped evaluate the field.

Adomitis wasn't there because he was the only snapper invited to the NFL scouting combine. That reminded St. Louis how Bengals special teams coach Al Roberts found him. He was at the East-West all-star game as a tight end and since it was raining and one team was on the turf field, St. Louis went to the other field to see if anyone would notice him snapping.

"Sure enough," St. Louis said, "about seven or eight guys came over and asked me questions. Al was one of them. I forgot about it until after I got drafted."

St. Louis stayed for nearly 10 seasons and 144 games until he suddenly and mysteriously lost his touch early in the 2009 season. When they brought Harris in for the workout that took his job, he remembers shaking his hand in the lounge.

"Brad had a great career here for a long time," Huber said. "That's a long time to do it well."

St. Louis salutes Harris for his longevity and he got a kick out of Huber breaking the team record with 208 games last Sunday.

"He was a rookie and look at the career he's had," St. Louis said.

He's got just a word of advice for Adomitis in Dallas Sunday.

"Keep doing it, man," St. Louis said. "He's been doing it for a long time."

Simmons will have a lot more than that to say. The Cowboys, he says, rush on every punt and are a dangerous foe even for a vet.

"You want to be an NFL long snapper?" Simmons asked rhetorically. "Here you go."

Bengals head coach Zac Taylor worked with Cowboys special teams coordinator John Fassel and knows what can happen.

"In all the special teams meetings, seeing all the things he can do," Taylor said. "That can be good and bad. You know the full scope of what he's capable of and drawn up. He certainly makes you work at it. Punt returns are also a challenge with some trickery."

Back in St. Louis' NFL debut, the Browns challenged him in the first game ever at Paycor stadium and lined up the No. 1 pick right over him. All 285 pounds of defensive end Courtney Brown.

Simmons isn't going to put it past the Cowboys to line up someone like 270-pound defensive end Dorance Armstrong over the 240-pound Adomitis. He can only hope the result is the same as it was 22 years ago.

"They tried to see if he could run me over," St. Louis said. "They did it twice and when I blocked him, they tried something else."

The position is never going to evolve past that.

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Even though wide receiver Tee Higgins (concussion) is listed as questionable, Taylor is encouraged after he went full Friday with contact. Same with punt returner Trent Taylor (hamstring), who is not questionable after going limited. The other two questionables are nose tackle Josh Tupou (shin), even though he went full, and tight end Devin Asiasi (quad) after he was limited.

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