The life of an NFL long snapper is an interesting one. If they do their job well, the names of long snappers are rarely mentioned on television or talked about amongst fans. Analysts are never sitting around discussing which player is the best long snapper in the NFL. The only time they get noticed or talked about is if they screw up. It may not be fair but that's the nature of the position.
In New England, the job of making accurate snaps and not getting noticed on the field belongs to Lonie Paxton. Paxton has been the Patriots long snapper since he joined the team as a rookie free agent out of Sacramento State. Besides the six games he missed at the end of the 2003 season, Paxton has snapped on every punt, extra point and field goal from his rookie year in 2000 to the present day.
Paxton says making a bad snap never even enters his mind.
"I try not to think about making a bad snap," Paxton said. "I don't even put that stuff in the back of my mind, I just throw it away. I just go out there and do what I do every day in practice. You don't practice to go nine-out-of-10. You practice to be perfect.
"It's unfortunate we play a position where we only get noticed if we make a mistake but hey, we make a good living doing it and we contribute to the success of the special teams."
When Paxton was a kid growing up in southern California, he and his father would attend Los Angeles Rams games. His father had season tickets and it just so happens that their seats were right next to where the long snappers would practice during the game. It didn't take long before a future long snapper was born.
"I just thought it was cool how they could get the ball there that accurately throwing it between their legs," Paxton said. "So I would go home and mess around with it myself in the backyard and things just progressed from there."
Paxton ended up playing college football at Division I-AA Sacramento State where he played guard in addition to being the team's long snapper. Despite being a four year starter on the offensive line, Paxton knew his only chance to make the NFL would be doing the craft he started mastering as a kid in his yard after Rams games.
"I knew I wouldn't play guard in the NFL," Paxton said. "I was pretty sure long snapping was the only thing they would ask me to do at this level. I didn't get any recognition playing guard in college. I thought I was solid but I wasn't the strongest or biggest guy around. It's pretty amazing coming from a school where I think we won a total of 12 games during my college career to being amongst guys who are always at the top of their game."
Long snappers aren't only getting more respect on the field but their value to a football team is being rewarded in bigger contracts as well. Playing in the 80s and 90s, long snapper Trey Junkin received a total of $20,000 in signing bonuses over his last 17 seasons. Today, the NFL's best long snappers have received signing bonuses ranging from $200,000 to $800,000.
"Every year the importance of certain positions gets recognized," Paxton said. "The more consistent you are at what you do, the more valuable you are to a team so they are going to pay to keep you around."
A majority of NFL fans outside of New England probably don't know the name "Lonie Paxton" and that's a good thing. It means he's doing his job well. Paxton is never going to get all the accolades that a Tom Brady or AdamVinatieri gets and he's fine with that. He understands his role and continues to play with consistency, quietly doing his part to help the Patriots win football games.
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Moulds could sit
According to published reports, Bills receiver Eric Moulds has been suspended one week for conduct detrimental to the team, which means he would miss this Sunday's game against the Patriots. Moulds would be a huge loss for the Bills offense. Not only is he the team's most experienced receiver but Moulds has had big games versus the Patriots in the past, including nine receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown the first time the two teams met back in October.
In his Wednesday conference call with the media, Bills head coach Mike Mularkey commented on the situation with his star receiver.
"I'm really leaving that in-house," Mularkey said. "I had a conversation with Eric and we'll leave it at that. He's been excused from practice for the rest of the week. Beyond that, we haven't decided anything in regards to the game."
If Moulds doesn't play on Sunday, Josh Reed will likely start in his place.
Both Bill Belichick and Richard Seymour talked on Thursday on the improved play of the Patriots defense against the Jets. "Overall, the run defense is better from a team standpoint," Belichick said. "We're playing better across the board." Seymour added, "I think we were more aggressive last week, really bringing the fight to them. If we wanted different results, we had to change what we were doing and we got different results. It was a total team effort."…The Patriots hold a 23-3 record since 1993 when the kickoff temperature is 35 degrees or colder…The Patriots have not allowed a point in the first quarter in their three divisional games this season.