A Surprise Snapper

The surprised reaction of Browns fans in the chat room Sunday when Ryan Pontbriand matched the stunned reaction of the draftee himself. That may not be the case in the future, as teams are beginning to see the importance of having a reliable long-snapper.

BEREA - The decision to draft Rice long snapper Ryan Pontbriand in the fifth round, 142nd was a shocker, even to Pontbriand, who was playing spades with his girlfriend when he got the call saying he was a member of the Cleveland Browns.

"I didn't think I was going to be picked this early," said Pontbriand. "I'm at a loss for words. I was not expecting this."

Pontbriand said he expected to be an un-drafted free agent, scrambling to sign a contract after the draft.

"I think last year the only guy that got drafted that could snap was (Jeff) Grau out of UCLA, and he got drafted in the seventh round. So I was thinking I'd go as a free agent somewhere. Believe me, going in the firth round was a complete surprise."

During a teleconference with the Browns media, a reporter commented that he must be pretty good to long snap.

Pontbriand tried to keep from laughing, but couldn't hold it back as he replied "I must be. I was drafted in the fifth round."

Even Butch Davis admitted the decision to draft Pontbriand that high could have been considered unusual. He defended the pick by saying "if you have a chance to get a drop-dead starter, you have to do it."

The Browns worked out close to 20 long snappers to replace Ryan Kuehl during the offseason. Pontbriand was the best of that lot.

The decision to draft Pontbriand, however, came down to the Browns' immediate need and the knowledge that at least five other teams were actively looking for a long snapper. Without a seventh-round pick, the Browns believed they had to draft Pontbriand or risk not getting the long snapper they targeted.

After the New York Giants playoff fiasco with Trey Junkin, the value of a long snapper has been re-thought by several NFL teams. That could have added to the Browns' unusual decision.

"Most don't understand that it's a real skill and you can't take someone off the street and rely on someone like that to get the job done," said Pontbriand. "Hopefully, the league is shifting towards that and coaches realize that it is a real skill position."

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