The Patriots will have a new long-snapper for the duration of the 2022 regular season, marking the first time current long-snapper Joe Cardona will miss games in his eight-year NFL career.
New England has placed the veteran long snapper on injured reserve due to an ankle injury ahead of Saturday's matchup against the defending AFC Champion Bengals at Gillette Stadium. The Pats then signed long-snapper Tucker Addington to the 53-man roster from the practice squad, signaling Addington will handle long-snapping duties this week.
According to ESPN's Mike Reiss, Cardona is dealing with a torn tendon in his foot and won't play again this season. Reiss's report adds that Cardona played through a partial tear last week in Las Vegas but cannot play through the injury any longer, breaking a 140-game active streak. Cardona is expected to make a full recovery for the 2023 season. However, it's worth noting that the Navy product is an unrestricted free agent.
As for Addington, the Patriots signed the Sam Houston State long snapper to the practice squad when the team was out in Arizona last week. The 25-year-old has yet to snap in an NFL game, with a short stint on the Cowboys practice squad before signing with New England when Cardona's injury became an issue.
After the Patriots had a punt blocked against the Raiders, it will be interesting to see how swapping Addington in for Cardona impacts the operation. Nowadays, the snapper, holder (usually the punter), punter, and kicker work tirelessly throughout the spring, summer, and regular season on timing and different intricacies of the trade. With Addington only in the building for a short while, there will be an adjustment period.
"Getting acclimated," head coach Bill Belichick said of Addington on Thursday. "Timing and acclimation to punt and field goal protection. Obviously, in punt protection, there's a lot more to it. Calls, assignments, coverage responsibilities, and so forth."
Along with making the roster move at long snapper, the Patriots also elevated kicker Tristan Vizcaino and wide receiver Scotty Washington from the practice squad. Vizcaino was active against the Bills for New England's last home game, handling kickoffs instead of place kicker Nick Folk.
The move to elevate Vizcaino means that, despite starting his IR-return clock this week at practice, the Patriots did not activate punter Jake Bailey. Since Bailey went on injured reserve in Week 10, New England has just one touchback in 27 kickoffs and allowed a kickoff return touchdown in Minnesota, while Bailey has a touchback rate of 63.6%. Elevating Vizcaino takes some of the workload off Folk. But the Pats kickoffs will likely fall short of the end zone, setting up returnable kicks for the Bengals.
As for Washington, he spent the last two seasons on Cincinnati's practice squad but has yet to appear in an NFL game. Washington's 6-foot-5 frame and large catch radius made him an NFL prospect, while he flashed decent build-up speed due to long strides at Wake Forest as well. With wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (shoulder) and rookie Tyquan Thornton (knee) listed as questionable on the injury report, Washington could provide depth at the position if necessary.
For the Bengals, Cincinnati downgraded starting tight end Hayden Hurst to out as they make the trip to Foxboro for Saturday's game. Hurst is dealing with a calf injury, opening the door for former Pats draft pick Devin Asiasi to get some playing time against his old team. Backup tight end Mitchell Wilcox also caught a touchdown pass last week against the Bucs.
With the Patriots trailing the Chargers (8-6) and Dolphins (8-6) by one game in the Wild Card standings, New England's playoff hopes have fallen to 18%, per Football Outsiders, making Saturday's game a must-win.
The Patriots host the Bengals with kickoff at 1 pm ET on Christmas Eve at Gillette Stadium.