ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — If all goes well, a fan will go an entire game — or even an entire season — without thinking about their team's long snapper.
It's a position, as Broncos Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett said Friday, where you never want to hear the player's name. When a snap is executed properly, the punter or kicker will send away the ball — and the long snapper won't even be noticed. Only after a mistake is the the long snapper's name usually mentioned by a broadcast crew.
"It's one of those things, you never want to hear about them, but when things go bad, then you do," Hackett said. "It's not a great position to be at. It's a humbling experience doing that, but it's so necessary and so important to our team."
For the first time since the start of the 2020 season, Denver will feature a new long snapper on "Monday Night Football" — and the Broncos likely hope that fans will never hear his name.
Denver signed both Mitchell Fraboni and Joe Fortunato to the practice squad this week, and the team can either sign its preferred snapper to the 53-man roster or promote the player for game day.
"It's a combination of a lot of things," Hackett said of what the Broncos will look for to make a decision. "It's accuracy, timing, blocking ability, coverage ability. There are so many different things after being a long snapper in my past. There's a lot of things that go into it. Again, we won't know until that game day. That's the exciting thing about this game."
Part of the evaluation process, Hackett said, is trying to determine how a player will react in a game scenario.
"I don't think we'll ever know 100 percent," Hackett said. "I know we've got two guys here that we want to see compete and how they go after it to see who's going to be that guy, and we'll find out on Monday."
As the Broncos try to make their determination, Special Teams Coordinator Dwayne Stukes and Assistant Special Teams Coach Mike Mallory have worked with both Fraboni and Fortunato to prepare them for Monday night's matchup.
"We take them through drills, we try to put them in adverse situations and put pressure on them and see how they respond to pressure," Stukes said. "We also try to pay attention to how they learn. If a guy picks things up quickly, he has an advantage in my opinion. And then today is a punt period, so they'll get tested by our scout team, 100 percent."
Stukes said the Broncos will test them with eight- and nine-man fronts, run games and test their ability to be disciplined in protection.
"Snapping should be easy for them, because they've done it their whole life," Stukes said. "It's the protection part that gets some guys in trouble."
Stukes declined to indicate if Fraboni or Fortunato had the edge, and it's entirely possible the Broncos don't make a roster move until the last possible opportunity.
No matter who the Broncos choose, that player will make their NFL debut. And as they do, the Broncos surely hope they go unnoticed.
'ONE OF THE TOP QUARTERBACKS'
Despite the chatter among the national media, Chargers head coach Brandon Staley does not see any drop off from Russell Wilson over the first five weeks of the season.
"He is the same quarterback," Staley said Friday. "That person is still there. That competitor is still there. ... We know the player that he is. Even on tape, through five games, you can see the player that I think people are accustomed to — that player is still there. He's just new to the team, and this isn't uncommon for the quarterback position when the quarterback changes a system — when he goes to a new place — especially later in his career, there can be a transition. It's normal. But Russell's a Super Bowl champion. I think he's one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. He's got a team around him on offense that's extremely dangerous. He's got an outstanding coaching staff. We have full respect for this player."
Wilson will look to rebound from a two-interception performance in Week 5 to help the Broncos snap a two-game skid.