With organized team activities officially underway at Halas Hall, the Chicago Bears are just about two months away from their 2017 training camp in Bourbonnais set to start on July 26th. In a new ambitious feature, we’re going to breakdown every single player on the Bears’ 90-man roster before the pads come back on in the summer heat. The main reasoning behind this is to act as an introduction to fringe roster guys and newcomers in high standing. It’ll also be means to reintroduce familiar faces and what’s changed for them in a detailed analysis completed over the next two months.
Obviously, some days will have than one Bears player featured, as the 90-day timeline is already past it’s due date, but the general idea is evident.
There’ll also be debate concerning who is the actual 90th player on the Bears roster and so on, but it’s unlikely the organization could even nail that down themselves at the moment. Competition will determine more of that assessment in due time. So in that light, we’re going to generally work our way up from less-than-known newcomers, undrafted free agents, and specialists, to the primary starters and franchise cornerstones.
And what better way to kick off this series for the first time than with the Bears’ starting long snapper in Patrick Scales. Scales began his Bears career in November 2015 and has been Chicago’s man at a relatively obscure position ever since. He’s not the first man to try and replace fan favorite Patrick Mannelly, who retired in 2014, but so far he’s been the most successful.
There’s no discernible accepted advanced method to analyze play in a long snapper over time. There are no fancy charts or graphics (that I know of, and believe me, I looked), or GIF’s (aside from gaffes). Though, there is a blog dedicated entirely to long snapping if that’s something you’re into.
Generally, the long snapper is the kind of position in football that obviously only has to literally do his job and never be noticed, unlike anyone else. It was a position largely created in the mind of not having 300-plus backup centers run down field in punt coverage. With rules against touching the long snapper while he actually snaps, that’s allowed for teams to employ a bit smaller guys who are free to run down field almost immediately. A fascinating and simultaneously odd case.
The only time a long snapper wholly noticed is if they make a mistake and there’s a bad snap, or if they’re hurt and have to be replaced quickly by a free agent off the street (which generally doesn’t have the best results).
If you’re a long snapper, as long as you’re never noticed, you’re doing your job. Get the ball to the holder on field goals, punter on punts, occasionally make a tackle on said punts in coverage (you better be a decent athlete with relative strength in the modern NFL), and you’re in the clear. In that respect, a decent long snapper is considered to have one of the safest spots on an NFL roster, because most teams only carry one full-time during a season. Most don’t even bring in true competition once they have a set veteran that they trust in place.
But one outlandish mistake by a guy still making his mark and its almost certainly all over considering the amount of similar guys lying in the wings waiting to swoop in. Then the rapid fire tryouts start, of course. The types of generational talents like Mannelly (yes, generational), that last 13 years with one team are incredibly rare in the NFL.
For the 29-year-old Scales, who has been with five NFL teams in his career to this point - including the Ravens (two stints), Dolphins, Jets, and Buccaneers - he’s done well in that regard to maintain an always tentative long snapping role with the Bears so far. The former high school tight end and defensive end is generally a quality athlete for his position (ran a 5.08 40-yard dash at his Utah Pro Day before the 2011 NFL Draft), and hasn’t made an egregious mistake yet as he’s been steady for Chicago’s special teams units.
Provided Scales continues the same level of snaps, there’s no reason to believe his Bears tenure stops abruptly before the close of camp, or even after 2017.
Experience: Six seasons
Weight: 248 pounds
Contract and salary cap
Scales is on the second year of a two-year, $960,000 dollar deal signed back in the 2016 offseason. He has a base salary of $615,000 in 2017 and will have the same cap hit this upcoming season according to Spotrac. There are no performance incentives or bonuses in the veteran’s deal.
Reason for improvement in 2017
Honestly, there’s not much Scales could do to improve as a long snapper. As long as he’s steady and consistent with his snaps, and getting down field in coverage, that’s all he needs to worry about. Maintaining consistency is the goal here. The long snapper on any NFL team is probably the one guy that doesn’t have to worry about “improving.” They just have to stay in shape and stay sharp. If the former journeyman in Scales wants to make more of a permanent professional football home in Chicago, that’s all he has to do: maintain.
Reason for regression in 2017
Hey, injuries happen and so do mistakes. If for some reason Scales isn’t up to par during the summer training season or if he pulls a hamstring or something along those lines, then that’s the only way he could regress or be in jeopardy this year, aside from a horrible in-game snap later. Performance-wise, nothing holds Scales back. He’s still of a quality age in his late 20’s and is in good shape. A freak accident or incredibly unlucky mishap in actual gameplay is all there’s to keep an eye out for.
Final roster odds
Scales is virtually 100 percent guaranteed to make the Bears’ final 53-man regular season roster. He plays too unique a position as Chicago’s long snapper and faces no competition for his spot until further notice. Consider Scales a definite lock to man the middle on the Bears’ field goal and punt units.
Robert Zeglinski is the Bears beat writer for the Rock River Times and is a staff writer for Windy City Gridiron. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.