Clark Harris has been long snapping so long for the Bengals that if he has ever delivered a bad ball to Kevin Huber on a punt or a kick, no one can remember it. On Wednesday, he took the golden right hand and signed up for a 14th season in his continuing quest to be the oldest player in the NFL.
"Tom Brady came out of retirement, so I guess I'll always be No. 2," said Harris, who turns 38 in July and is really only in the top 11 with two other quarterbacks ahead of him.
"I'll just go until my body says no."
Or at least until special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons says it.
Simmons gave the same offseason memo he gave Huber. There is going to be a competition at both punter and long snapper, positions the pair has head-locked in a span of three different decades, seven postseasons, four AFC North titles, three franchise quarterbacks and a Super Bowl. They are two of the four Bengals who have played at least 200 games.
Huber, who has yet to re-up, is matched up against former Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman, coming off a rookie year on and off the practice squad. Harris' competition isn't here yet as the Bengals record book hangs in suspension. Huber tied Ring of Honor inductee Ken Riley for the team record in last season's finale in Cleveland in his 207th game, one ahead of Bengals First Fifty honoree Reggie Williams. Harris is next at 201.
"No one's job is safe. It's never been safe. He told me to be ready to compete for my job," Harris said. "It could be a late-round pick, a free agent, an undrafted guy. He told me to be ready."
But Harris has a leg up. Make that a hand up, as in the left hand he coyly slid under the table for Wednesday's photo op. It's an example of his invisible resilience and reliability.
Harris isn't sure if it's the thumb or the wrist that got torn up when he made a tackle in Las Vegas back on Nov. 21: "One bone over and it would have been considered the thumb. On the other side one bone over it would have been considered the wrist. So I call it the thumb-slash-wrist."
Whatever it is, the ligament got yanked off the bone in some kind of fracture. It was an annoyance as the game went on, sheer hell the next few days.
"If it had been the other hand, I would been out for the year," Harris said. "It was miserable.
"The movement wasn't the bad thing. It's when I got hit. Practice, just a little elbow bump from the guard or someone trying to make a swim move on it. That sucked, but during games the adrenaline just took over."
He wasn't able to block anyone with his hands straight up for the rest of the year. On the left side he had to resort to his shoulder with an almost chicken wing motion. But given how much pain he gritted through, there was nothing chicken about it because he kept people away from Huber.
"It's a big tribute to Darrin, who is good at helping me out," Harris said. "Changing some schemes here and there to make sure I'm protected in ways I have to be protected. The snapping wasn't the bad part. It was the blocking. As long as they could help me out and we could do things and make calls to help me out, it worked out well."
Harris and Simmons are still working through the dustup at last month's Super Bowl, where Harris and kicker Evan McPherson chose to watch the halftime show and not go into the locker room. Simmons is still livid and Harris gets it.
"We've had discussions about it. I don't think it's fully smoothed out yet, but I'm working on it," Harris said. "He wasn't a fan. I didn't realize it was going to be such a thorn. Now that I realize how he feels about it, I understand where he's coming from and why he wasn't a fan of it."
When people ask Harris why he's not retiring, he just looks at that day in SoFi and realizes how close they are to winning it all.
"Needless to say," Harris said, "when we go back to the Super Bowl this year, I'll be inside at halftime."
OLDEST NFL PLAYERS (Elias)
QB Tom Brady, Tampa Bay 44 years 225 days
LT Jason Peters, Chicago 40 years 53 days
P Dustin Colquitt, Cleveland 39 years 314 days
P Andy Lee, Arizona 39 years 217 days
P Sam Koch, Baltimore 39 years 215 days
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington 39 years 112 days
K Robbie Gould, San Francisco 39 years 100 days
G Richie Incognito, Las Vegas 38 years 254 days
QB Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay 38 years 104 days
TE Marcedes Lewis, Green Bay 37 years 301 days
LS Clark Harris, Cincinnati 37 years 249 days