Jon Condo's career in football didn't start as a long snapper. But his willingness to switch positions to help his team was what made a career for himself in the NFL.
Today the Raiders made yet another commitment to their Pro Bowl long snapper when they signed him to a 3-year extension. It is the third such commitment the team has made to Condo. He is entering his ninth season with the Raiders and has been the team's fulltime long snapper since 2007. Now he will be a Raider until 2016 which could be the remainder of his career.
It's a career that began begrudgingly for Condo.
"Yeah, when I first started in college, I'll tell you right now, I hated it," said Condo. "I was playing outside linebacker and there's no other snapper and I didn't like it because it took away from the defensive side of the ball. The coach said if you keep doing this you can make some money, you can make a living out of it and fortunately things worked out and I have fun out there and do whatever I can to help the team win."
Being a long snapper isn't without its appeal for Condo because a long snapper isn't simply asked to be able to snap a ball. Once that ball is snapped, he must block and on punts he must then get down field and try to make a play on the return man. That's where he gets to utilize those skills he possesses as a linebacker.
"That's the one thing that helps me out a lot transitioning from the linebacker to long snapper," said Condo. "I like to cover. I like to run down the field, I like to be one of the guys taking on blocks, shedding them, and making plays. I always want to stick my head in there. I'm a believer in trying to get as many hits on the ball carrier as you can. That might make them want to go down a little easier next time. But I only know how to play one way and that's run down the field as fast as you can and try to get in the way and make a play somehow."
His unique set of skills has helped him carved out a long career already and it has earned him the right to finish his career with the team who gave him his first shot in the NFL.
Condo's extension comes a day after the Raiders extended his Pro Bowl special teams mate Sebastian Janikowski to be the team's kicker for the next five seasons. They lost All Pro punter, Shane Lechler this off-season but it wasn't for lack of wanting him to stay. Lechler was intent upon playing for his home team, Houston Texans.
To try and make up for the loss of Lechler, the team brought in Chris Kluwe this off-season to compete at punter. They also hired former 2-time special teams coordinator of the year, Bobby April, and former All Pro return man, Josh Cribbs.
It all adds up to a new emphasis placed on excellence in special teams.
"Yeah, there's definitely an emphasis on special teams," said Condo. "You look at all the great teams and it's good defenses and great special teams. The coaches have been showing us stats and how important field position is during the game and where the starting point on the field for the team. It's all about field position and making explosive plays on a punt team or kickoff return. It's huge. That's a momentum builder for a team and it can also break down the opposing team. Special teams is definitely a big focus this year for the Raiders to get back up to where we once were. We want to be in the top five, top ten in the league."
Getting these guys locked up now also makes things a lot more comfortable heading into this season. They have quite a few players on the last years of their deal as well as a few who were signed this off-season to one-year deals.
The more contracts that can be done ahead of time the better. The Pro Bowl special teamers are a good place to start.