Tyler Clutts clutch as fill-in long snapper
by Mark Potash firstname.lastname@example.org November 20, 2011 10:30PM
Chicago Bears safety Major Wright (27) is tackled by San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) after he intercepted a pass in the second half of an NFL football game in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Watching the play is Bears' Brian Urlacher (54). The Bears won 31-20. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Updated: January 20, 2012 1:54AM
Bears fullback Tyler Clutts, who played in the CFL, the Arena League and the United Football League before finally making it to the NFL last year, said he’s willing to do anything he can to stay here. But when special-teams coach Dave Toub told him he was the Bears’ long snapper after Patrick Mannelly suffered an apparent knee injury in the second quarter, Clutts was taken aback.
‘‘I was kind of like, ‘Wait, wait, wait . . . what?’’ Clutts said. ‘‘It kind of caught me by surprise. I just tried to not stress out too much and not let the nerves get the best of me and be cool and collected. [But] I had a good group around me. I was as confident as I could be.’’
Clutts took a few lumps but made it through three extra points and a punt snap without incident in the Bears’ 31-20 victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers at Soldier Field. It’s a contribution that can’t be overlooked. Last year, the Chargers lost Pro Bowl long snapper David Binn in the season opener, and Mike Scifres had four punts blocked.
Clutts was a long snapper in high school and a backup long snapper in college. But he had never long-snapped in a game before Sunday. He said he took about 10 warmup snaps before snapping on an extra point after Jay Cutler’s four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kellen Davis. He said Mannelly — a renowned long-snapping guru — helped coach him after he returned from getting treatment.
‘‘I got blown back pretty big on the [extra points],’’ Clutts said. ‘‘The big guys inside were trying to blow me up, and I asked him how to correct that. And he gave me some tips that helped.’’
Mannelly, a 14-year veteran who has played in a franchise-record 215 games with the Bears, said he was OK as he walked out of the locker room, though he was limping noticeably.
But Clutts said he could handle the job if asked to do it full time.
‘‘Absolutely,’’ he said.
The ol’ fake punt fails
An interesting day all around for special teams was capped by a fake punt with the Bears trying to clinch the game on a fourth-and-eight at the Chargers’ 45-yard line with 1:59 to play. Craig Steltz was wide open, but punter Adam Podlesh’s pass was too long.
‘‘I might have gotten hit at the line a second, and that kind of threw off the timing a little bit,’’ Steltz said. ‘‘But it was a good pass. It was an inch too far.’’
It was the first fake-punt pass Podlesh has thrown in five NFL seasons.
‘‘When I let go of the ball, I thought it was perfect. I thought we had it,’’ said Podlesh, who had a 45.7-yard net average on three punts. ‘‘The problem was I didn’t notice that he had gotten held up a little bit. We had timed it where I get it and get it right out. I took a little off it [to account for the adrenaline of a live game]. But I should have taken a little more off of it.’’
Safety Major Wright, who shared time with Brandon Meriweather earlier in the game, had an interception for the third consecutive game when he picked off a Philip Rivers pass for Vincent Jackson in the back of the end zone. It was the fourth interception for Bears safeties in five games since Chris Conte became a starter. They had none before that.
Jackson won the battle for most of the day and ended up with seven receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown. But two interceptions and a fumble recovery by Charles Tillman neutralized that.
‘‘Right now, we think we’re playing some great defense, but every week we’ve got to get better,’’ Wright said.