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Bears’ Mannelly snaps to attention

It’s among the rarest of sights in the NFL — a long-snapper behind a lectern in an interview room.

The Bears’ Patrick Mannelly knows as well as anybody that usually he’d have to screw up pretty spectacularly to get that much attention. Most long-snappers who do see the interview room only on their way out the door.

But there was Mannelly on Wednesday, facing television cameras, tape recorders and reporters at Halas Hall, getting some long-deserved recognition for long snappers everywhere. The 13-year veteran from Duke was named to the USA Football/NFLPA All-Fundamentals Team. It’s an appropriate honor for the unsung Mannelly — most people who follow the NFL have never heard of it.

It puts Mannelly in a class with Aaron Rodgers, LaDainian Tomlinson, Champ Bailey, Justin Tuck and Darren Sharper — among the 26 players named to the team that recognizes players for their fundamentals and positive impact on the community.

‘‘Normally, long-snappers like to be anonymous, but not today,’’ said Bears special teams coach Dave Toub, who presented the award, a helmet trophy, to Mannelly. ‘‘It’s a great honor for Pat. Very well-deserved. His technique is second to none.’’

Mannelly, who was hand-picked for the long-snapping job by former Bears vice president of player personnel Mark Hatley in 1998, has been among the best long-snappers in the NFL for his entire 13-year career. He has played in a team-record 202 games. The Bears have had just three of 1,137 punts blocked since Mannelly became the long-snapper.

Mannelly credited his coaches, among them Doc Spurgeon at Marist High School in Marietta, Ga., and Joe DeLamielleure and Joe DeForest at Duke.

‘‘They’re the ones who made this award possible,’’ said Mannelly, who has a website, longsnapper.com, to help players interested in long-snapping. ‘‘You can’t get to this level without fundamentals. So this award is more about them than it is about me.’’

A long-snapper can play a key role on a playoff-caliber team that plays outdoors in December. Last Sunday, a high snap on a tying PAT with 13 seconds to go cost the Redskins a chance at overtime against the Buccaneers.

Chargers punter Mike Scifres had only one of 393 punts blocked with David Binn — the only active long-snapper with more NFL games (256) than Mannelly — snapping. But after Binn suffered a torn hamstring in the opener, Scifres had four of his next 20 punts blocked. The Chargers had two replacement snappers get injured and released one before turning to rookie Mike Windt — who grew up emulating Mannelly.

‘‘When I was in high school I went on his website and got some tips — like things to work on when you’re practicing, stuff like that,’’ said Windt, who has been the Chargers’ long-snapper for eight games. ‘‘When I was in college [at Cincinnati] on Sundays I’d watch every snapper, but the thing that stands out about Pat is his consistency. That’s why he’s one of the best long-snappers in the league.’’

Mannelly, who is in the final year of a five-year, $5.2 million contract extension he signed in 2005, would like to retire a Bear, according to his agent, Don Henderson. At 35, Mannelly is at the top of his game and still feels he has many years left.

It’ll be interesting to see if the Bears agree.



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