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— Miami Dolphins 14th-year veteran John Denney first saw his future career path in eighth grade Ameer Abdullah Jersey , when he bent over and looked between his legs.

His coach was putting together a place-kicking team at practice, and Denney volunteered to try out as a long snapper.

“Whoever was interested lined up and started snapping the ball at a tire hanging from the uprights,” Denney said. “Beginner’s luck, I hit the chain holding the tire and it knocked the tire off the chain. At that age, that got everybody in a frenzy.”

Those cheers might still be the loudest Denney ever received for doing his job. All long snappers toil in anonymity — unless they make a mistake, and Denney doesn’t. That’s why he has been with the Dolphins since 2005, four years longer than any other active player.

At 39 he’s among the oldest players in the NFL.

“It has been a ride, that’s for sure,” Denney said following a recent practice. “I would never guess 14 years later I would still be on this field in the same place. I won the lottery.”

Is the hardest part of the job the drudgery of training camp in steamy South Florida?

“For everybody else, yeah,” Denney said with a chuckle. “My position is different.”

That’s for sure. Long snappers spend much of practice off to the side with the place-kickers and punters, often watching and chatting. It’s not bad duty for $1 million a year, which is Denney’s salary this season.

But as with any specialist, there’s pressure. Denney is expected to be nearly 100 percent accurate, and has been. When asked to tabulate the misfires Jaylon Smith Jersey , Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi paused to search his memory.

“In my nine seasons with him, I think we had confusion once on a field goal,” Rizzi said Tuesday. “Brandon Fields (the holder) wasn’t looking, and John hit him in the face mask.

“To have to sit here and think about it is a credit to him.”

And while the 6-foot-5, 242-pound Denney doesn’t log as many snaps as an every-down player, he does run downfield under punts, and wins raves for staying in shape.

“The guy is in unbelievable physical condition,” coach Adam Gase said. “He’s the ultimate pro.”

Denney doesn’t look his age, but he’ll turn 40 in December.

“Wow. I didn’t know he was going to be 40,” said running back Frank Gore, who’s a mere 35. “He does work hard, though. During the offseason he works very, very hard.”

That includes snapping drills. Sometimes Denney recruits his 11- and 13-year-old sons to help, and hikes in the backyard.

Like everything else, practice makes perfect.

“If I give you a ball right now and you look between your legs and everything is upside down Quincy Wilson Jersey , it’s not natural,” Denney said. “It’s a matter of working at it to a point it becomes natural.”

Denney played linebacker and offensive line in high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, and was a three-year starter at defensive end for Brigham Young. All the while he groomed his skills as a long snapper, which is how he made the Dolphins’ roster after going undrafted.

He played in every game as a rookie, and each year since he has played in all 16 games — 208 in total. That’s by far a team record for consecutive games, and tied for third among active NFL players.

The streak will likely grow, although Denney has nominal competition in training camp from undrafted rookie Lucas Gravelle. It’s one of the few times the team has brought in another long snapper to compete with Denney, but he said he always feels like he’s fighting for his job.

“Regardless of whether there is another body in camp, they have a list on a board somewhere with the next five best long snappers available,” he said. “It’s not like you’re ever in the clear.”

That accurately describes life in the NFL. As usual, Denney is right on target.

Whether trying to avoid a first-round gamble or reaching for a player too soon, many fantasy football players will go into 2018 drafts with a list of performers to absolutely not trust.

Don’t be that obtuse to completely exclude players. One person’s disappointment could be another’s bargain:

JOE MIXON, RB, Bengals: Mixon will be off most boards by the end of the fourth round yet still has the taint of a 3.5-yard average yards per carry and the shadow of Giovani Bernard Terrell Owens Jersey , especially in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues. Mixon is worth the risk if his value freefalls. Also note that only Tennessee’s Dion Lewis (91.4 percent) had a better catching percentage than Mixon’s 88.2 percent.

COREY DAVIS, WR, Titans: Last year’s fifth overall pick had just 34 catches for 375 yards and failed to score in 11 games. Davis was an overreach in drafts last summer, but health and the addition of new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur are strong signs he can be a mid-round steal who could emerge as a WR3/flex with upside, which would be good news for…

MARCUS MARIOTA, QB, Titans: After firing 26 touchdown passes in 2016, Mariota threw half that number last year while tossing 15 interceptions. LaFleur will open the offense to take advantage of his dual-threat potential. He’ll start as a backup option, but Mariota can easily account for 30-plus TDs this fall.

SAMMY WATKINS, WR, Chiefs: Despite scoring eight touchdowns, Watkins was a disappointment, catching only 39 passes for a Rams offense that broke out under quarterback Jared Goff. Now in Kansas City, Watkins’ game-altering skills will be a good fit for strong-armed Patrick Mahomes.

MARSHAWN LYNCH, RB J.J. Jansen Jersey , Raiders: Oh, how he will love new coach Jon Gruden. Lynch could return to RB1 status under the new regime as he should eclipse the 207 carries he had in 2017. A 1,200-yard, 10-12 TD season is not out of the question.

WE REALLY HAVE TO TALK ABOUT CLAYTON…

Clayton Kershaw owners can’t be blamed for being in near-panic mode upon the Dodgers ace returning to the disabled list last week. Kershaw’s back woes will keep him out at least a month while a possible early August return is also possible.

Those who own Kershaw should look at what – if anything – they can get in return for moving him now, pitching trade partners the idea of having Kershaw for the stretch run. Equal value is no longer in discussion, so moving Kershaw for about 70-75 cents on the dollar might be as good as it gets. Owners willing to gamble on acquiring him should put themselves in position to dictate the price, especially if the Kershaw owner is already out of the money.

CHASE ELLIOTT THIS WEEK

Chase Elliott is overdue for a Top 5 finish after four straight weeks of ranking between 10th and 12th place. Elliott ($9,300 at DraftKings, $10,600 at FanDuel) is still looking for his first career win and is in position to do so in Sunday’s NASCAR Monster Energy FireKeepers 400.

He has run well at Michigan Speedway, having placed in the Top 10 in each of his previous four races that includes three top five finishes. Elliott has been solid in 2018 thus far yet has managed just one lap led during his previous 14 races entering Sunday.



This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, Green Bay Packers Customized Jerseys ,


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