His view of an NFL game while on the field is primarily backwards and upside down. His family tunes in from Arkansas to watch his typical 8-14 plays each week, then tell him all they were able to see was his backside.
Brett Goode will never complain. Such is life for a long-snapper, an unappreciated task and, perhaps, the game’s most specialized skill. His performances are graded by fractions of seconds. A good punt goes from his hands to off the punter’s foot in 2.05 seconds, though they aim for better. A field-goal snap should be fired back by Goode and then held firm and sent sailing toward the uprights in a total of 1.3 seconds.
A grizzled NFL special teams coach once said that when a team is without a skilled long-snapper, it’s like a confidence-killing virus. It spreads from the special teams to the offense to the defense and eventually to the fans. When people in the stadium and at home see snaps flying over the kicker’s head on an extra point, they think a team can’t get anything right.
“We’re held accountable for being perfect, and I never lose sight of that,” Goode said. “It used to be that guys who long-snapped played other positions, then they wanted it to be perfect every time. Teams have chosen to make this position possible, and all eyes are on us. I don’t get a lot of glory, and I don’t need it, but I know I’m doing my part.”
Goode joined the Packers on the eve of the 2008 opener after pouring concrete for most of the previous year for his father’s construction business in Fort Smith, Ark. He had spent the majority of that summer with the Jaguars, but was released prior to training camp. Goode originally signed with Jacksonville in ’07 as an undrafted rookie, but was waived in August. To stay sharp, he would snap into a net and work out on his own following framing and pouring concrete.
His chance came in Green Bay after long-snapper J.J. Jansen suffered a knee injury in the preseason finale. Goode, who got the call from the Packers while working on a driveway, arrived three days later and has been nearly flawless since.
“He’s what you want a long snapper to be, and that’s someone you never have to talk about,” said special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum. “He’s steady, he has velocity, and he’s getting stronger.”
Last year during the regular season, Goode had 145 snaps – 71 punts, 46 PATs and 38 field goals – and wasn’t graded negatively once. Goode, who signed a two-year contract extension near the end of 2010, continues to polish his skills. Nothing is left to chance.
“He works on his technique and being more efficient, and I put a clock to it,” Slocum said. “He’s also gotten stronger to put more speed on the snap. On a punt, the snap should be three-fourths of a second to the punter, and the punter should have the ball away in 1.24 seconds. You hit the benchmark at 1.99 seconds. That’s where we want to be.”
The work put in to reach those times makes for a unique practice schedule for Goode, punter Tim Masthay and kicker Mason Crosby, and a lonely existence. While the rest of the team is working on the game plan, the threesome is drilling the same three motions: snap, hold, kick.
“Building camaraderie is the biggest thing,” Goode said. “We spend so much time away from the team that we can be in our own little world. For us, practice is about focusing on our craft and trying to be perfect. We’re rarely seen, we do our jobs under the radar, and that’s the way we want it to be.”
Goode is also pretty solid in coverage. He had five tackles in 2010, including one on Chicago’s Devin Hester in the finale. Goode also has to get his head up and on a swivel quickly after firing the ball behind him to block; however, pressure or doubt has never entered the equation when he is at the line of scrimmage. He has been a long-snapper since high school. He walked on at the University of Arkansas and appeared in 49 games, snapping for punts all four seasons and for all kick placements his final three years.
“It’s like shooting free throws or putting in golf – the pressure is there, but you want it to be there,” Goode said. “You can’t think about it. It’s your job, and you’ve worked to make it exactly right, so you trust it. Blocking is one of the things that make it fun, because if someone comes up the middle untouched, no matter how good the snap is, the kick is going to get blocked. So that’s one of the challenges.”
The combination of confidence and skill at the position are rare, and it can make for a long NFL career. Teams tend to hang on to a long-snapper who is consistent. The best long-snapper in Packers’ history, current Director of Player Development Rob Davis, played in 167 straight games before retiring in 2008.
“It’s an opportunity I respect, and these jobs are few and far between,” Goode said. “There aren’t that many guys who can do it, but there are only 32 jobs. I can’t run like Greg Jennings or Donald Driver, or throw the ball like Aaron (Rodgers). This is something I can do to help the team. There’s an art to it.”