When special teams gets looked at in the National Football League, the more glory positions tend to be the kicker, punter, kick and punt returners. But as New York Giants fans can attest to, the long-snapper may be one of the most important positions of the entire unit.
Most fans will remember the mess of the 2002 NFC Wild Card game between the Giants and San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park, a game fans cringe when hearing, which some refer to as "the Trey Junkin game," as Junkin was the then-long snapper who botched the snap on a potentially-game winning field goal by Matt Bryant and the 49ers won a heartbreaker over the Giants, 39-38.
It's that kind of game that makes Giants fans grateful for Zak DeOssie, a linebacker by trade, but is primarily used as the long-snapper on the team on the punt and field goal team. The two-time Pro Bowler is a second generation Giants, as his father Steve DeOssie was a starting linebacker for the Giants in the late 80's and early 90's and understands how important it is to be a Giant, especially since he is one of the team captain's as well.
What also makes him very important to the team is a special technique he uses on the punt team, a "war cry" as he calls it, something that sounds like a loud shriek to throw off the opposing player trying to field a punt, as DeOssie told Jonathan Clegg of the Wall Street Journal.
"That's my battle cry, my war cry," said DeOssie. "It's just a loud shrill or shriek. If you're trying to catch the ball, I'm going to let you know I'm there. "I just figured that if you're trying to call a fair catch or you're not sure what to do, add another variable to the situation that's going to make you think a little bit more," DeOssie said. "How would you react if you had a 255-pound guy bearing down on you and screaming as loud as he can?"
In the NFL, you can't run into the punt returner if he has called for a fair catch, but there is no set rule that says you can't make a loud noise to cause a distraction and make the returner get flustered enough to botch it and drop it. This war cry worked on Saturday when Steve Weatherford punted the ball to Pittsburgh Steelers punt returner David Gilreath to get so thrown off by DeOssie's shrieking sound, the ball bounced off his shoulder pad and allowed Tyler Sash to recover a fumble in the third quarter. Sash noted that even though he got the fumble recovery, it was DeOssie's tactic that really made the impact on allowing the fumble to happen.
"You know that it's in the back of their mind," Sash said. "DeOssie running down full speed like a madman, that gets in a returner's head."
What also makes DeOssie so valuable as a special teams player is his ability to make tackles, which is where his time as a linebacker comes into play; as he has 18 special teams tackles since the 2011 season and is always one of the first guys down the field hustling to make a play, which is why he's earned two trips as an NFC representative to the Pro Bowl.
One play that almost never gets mentioned is after Eli Manning threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress in Super Bowl XLII, the Giants kick-off to New England Patriots' Laurence Maroney, who could have given the Patriots decent field position with a solid return, but DeOssie was the first one there to greet Maroney and bring him down at the 17-yard line with 29 seconds to go. By DeOssie stopping Maroney deep in the Patriots territory, it forced Tom Brady to throw a bunch of deep passes, and the Giants were able to stop every single one of them.
One thing that DeOssie said that he will not do is actually shot particular things at opposing punt returners, as he sees that as a sign of disrespect. But now that his war cry has actually helped the Giants in causing a key turnover early in the preseason, it will be something that he will continue to do when he's on the field for special teams.
"If there is even a 0.001% factor in me running downfield and screaming as loud as I can and hoping that they might even think about me in the back of their mind, that's a win," he said. "So why not run down there and do it?"
During the week at training camp, the Giants experimented with middle linebacker Mark Herzlich as a long-snapper; an experiment that was seen as one that did not go well, so Giants fans should continue to see DeOssie as the team's long-snapper and continuing to create havoc on the field.
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