For just the second time in his 20 seasons running the Bengals special teams, Darrin Simmons is looking at replacing his long snapper for an extended period of time.
It's feared that long snapper Clark Harris, who has snapped in all but three of the Bengals' last 205 games dating back to 2009, suffered a season-ending tear of his bicep in Sunday's opener against Pittsburgh.
The only other time Simmons did it was the Tuesday after the Oct. 11, 2009 game in Baltimore, when they decided to sign Harris and move on from Brad St. Louis, in the middle of his 10th Bengals season and after his 144th game with the club.
The week before Harris had been released from the Texans practice, his third NFL stop. So naturally the week the Bengals replaced St. Louis with him, they played the Texans and he's been there guy ever since.
Until Monday, when they put Harris on injured reserve and called up rookie Cal Adomitis from the practice squad to snap Sunday in Dallas, just two weeks after he learned Harris beat him out in the preseason.
(If you knew Harvard's Tyler Ott was Harris' replacement for the three games in 2016 he missed with a groin injury, move to the head of the class. Because you also probably know Ott hooked up with Seattle later that season and was their long snapper Monday night against Denver.)
Harris has not only been their guy, he's been a key guy. He's their only Pro Bowl long snapper in history, he's snapped for four AFC North champions and he's been at the center of the Bengals' eight top-ten appearances in the last ten seasons of Football Outsiders' special teams rankings.
"There is a certain level of trust and for however many years it's been now, I can take that position and put it aside and not have to think about it," Simmons said.
When Harris tore ligaments in a broken left non-snapping thumb last year in Las Vegas in the 10th game of the season, he didn't tell the media for fear foes would exploit it.
"It just sucked. I've had injuries before and I've been able to play through them whether it was a groin or thumb or other little things here and there," said Harris, saying he was getting another checkup Tuesday. "Just to not be able to play through, kind of really sucked."
Harris, 38, till trying to be the oldest player in the NFL, says he doesn't plan to retire even if he's out for the year.
"I've had a long career. I'm not going to go out on an injury," Harris said. "So, you've got to go out on a good note, you know, kind of the way I want to. I'm not going to let an injury be the thing that takes me out of playing football."
Like Harris, Adomitis comes from the practice squad. Except it's his own and so Adomitis is fully engrained in the system after signing with the Bengals as a free agent out of Pitt back in May as the draft's top-rated long snapper. He got good reviews for his NFL snapping as he adjusts to blocking, something he didn't have to do the last two years at Pitt.
What he's missing is Harris' experience as a blocker who has a vast knowledge of defensive looks. Harris admits, "I've seen it all."
"Now we got to get Cal up to speed. That's a lot of look to see in a week. Dallas is a team that loves to rush too," Simmons said. "We've been working on that throughout training camp, a lot of looks. Cal has seen a lot of those same looks, not the experience Clark has. When we brought Cal in here, we had some problems with Brad and had to make a change. Clark was in the same boat. Clark's experience was even less. He was drafted as a tight end who happened to snap. He probably made the right career choice, he wasn't going to make it as a tight end."
WILCOX DEFENDED: Harris said it was his fault the Bengals lost Sunday because he wasn't able to snap for either of the short kicks that would have won it. He knew the minute he felt it, the injury was bad, but he still tried to snap on the side and couldn't do it.
Simmons said the snaps from backup Mitchell Wilcox were good enough, but pass protection failed on Minkah Fitzpatrick's blocked extra point at the end of regulation and holder Kevin Huber and kicker Evan McPherson failed on converting a high snap into a 29-yard field goal with 3:32 left in overtime.
"The execution of the snap and the hold and you watch the kick, the kick was perfect," Simmons said of the PAT. "Evan's timing was perfect. That had nothing to do with the snap. That was all about the protection. It wouldn't matter if Clark Harris would have been in there on that one it still would have been blocked.
"The (field goal) snap was a little higher than Mitch wanted it to be, but I expect Kevin and Evan to execute that play 90 percent of the time. I think because it was a little high that's not something that Clark or Cal usually do. It was a little high, Kevin had to reach up for it a little bit, and that's something Evan hasn't seen, because that doesn't happen on a normal day-to-day basis."
On the blocked PAT, Simmons said he replaced tight end Hayden Hurst on the left wing with tight end Drew Sample on Sunday because of the Steelers' penchant for moving around on field-goal block. Sample, in his fourth season, has seen many more of those looks than Hurst, in his first Bengals season.
"(Sample) is somebody that has blocked on critical field goals for us over time. I felt probably more comfortable having him over there (on the left wing) than somebody hadn't done it before for us in Hayden," Simmons said. "I moved Drew over (from right wing) thinking that he would hold in there and do exactly what we've done, but he didn't block it exactly the way we want it blocked. There are two guys over there, he's not the only one at fault that's for sure."
Simmons, who said it was less than 25 percent Sample's fault, appeared to be talking about the left tackle, Hakeem Adeniji.
TAYLOR's 2 REGRETS: Give Bengals head coach Zac Taylor this. He'll man up and he did Monday when he said he wishes he had handled two things differently on Sunday. One was saying he should have thrown the challenge flag on Ja'Marr Chase's 12-yard catch at the inch line because replays showed it was a touchdown. The Bengals hustled to the line to punch in running back Joe Mixon and lost two yards instead and never scored on that series.
"That one just falls on me, to be quite honest with you," said Taylor, who says he should have called timeout even though he was down with less than three minutes left. "Just slow down. Slow down. What I could see was a bunch of incomplete hand signals. It's literally the worst field position in football for me to be able to see over there to that far pylon through a bunch of people. So just trying to gauge that we're not discussing an incomplete pass. We're discussing a possible touchdown. Slow it down, let us see the call. I can just do a better job of taking the information I'm hearing and giving it to Joe. I was quick to spit out, 'Hey, let's get on the ball and snap a play here to beat their challenge potentially before realizing that's not the issue. "
And the other thing was punting to Pittsburgh with 1:04 left and the play clock at 13 seconds, an eternity in a game the Steelers won on a 53-yarder as the clock ran out. To be fair, the Bengals were in field-goal range and then suddenly out of it and the refs took their time spotting it out of field goal range.
"Kind of at the last second. And the clock's running. We've got to punt," Taylor said. "And so you don't get a chance to sit there on the sidelines and say, 'Hey listen guys. Let's bleed this down.' You're communicating onto the field to do that. That's an area of improvement. It's kind of an unusual situation."
O-LINE OK: Burrow got hit 11 times and Mixon averaged three yards per carry even though he had a 31-yard run. But Taylor is encouraged by the offensive line and rookie left guard Cordell Volson.
"I thought the offensive line did a nice job, you look at (seven) sacks, everybody is involved. Some of them are free rushers that aren't clear responsibilities, sometimes it's the back, sometimes it's the quarterback, sometimes it's the O-line, sometimes it's me putting us in bad situations," Taylor said. "I thought they showed some encouraging things, we know it's a good defensive line, we know it's a good defense, they pressure a lot, they got good guys that can pressure and I thought they gave us a chance to win. It's something to build off of and improve from there.
"I thought Cordell showed some real potential in that game. Again, his last two non-Bengals opponents have been two Hall of Famers in Aaron Donald and Cam Heyward. That's not the ideal way to start your career. I saw some really good things from him, some really encouraging things. He hung with it over the course of the game. Really, really encouraged by the job that Cordell did. And he's only going to continue to get better."
DAX SNAPS: Their other high-profile draft pick, first-rounder Dax Hill, played six snaps at safety and 11 on special teams. It's the fewest number of snaps by a Bengals' first-rounder in his first game since wide receiver John Ross had five snaps in the second game of 2017. It shows the Bengals secondary depth.
"There's always going to be packages he's involved in. Sometimes that's going to be more, sometimes that's going to be the same," Taylor said. "I think that's going to continue to evolve every week. The good problem we have is that we have a lot of really good players on defense that can play a lot of roles. You're talking about (cornerback) Tre Flowers, (linebacker) Akeem Davis-Gaither, Dax Hill, so it's good a problem to have we have depth. Different guys have different roles."
Davis-Gaither took 12 snaps and Flowers five. Taylor also could have added sophomore edge Joseph Ossai and rookie tackle Zach Carter, each with 11.