A year ago, Andrew DePaola had his name in permanent marker on the Oakland Raiders 53-man roster.
Fast forward 12 months, the veteran long snapper – now with a year of rehab behind him – is in a competition with the man who replaced him after DePaola suffered a season-ending injury in the Raiders season opener in 2018.
“It was a little devastating last year,” said DePaola when asked about his injury. “Just because of the offseason I had. Signing here, the excitement with everything, and then, first punt of the season, that happened. A little devastating, but I’ve been through it before. I knew the road and how hard it was going’ to be to get back, but it’s a challenge which – I enjoy challenges – and at the same time, it was exciting to come back, and when that happens, you get to kind of re-do everything, you’re walking gait, your running gait, you get to kind of start from the ground up and get stronger again. I took that time to get better and do everything I could to get back as strong as I could, and [it’s] finally here, and I’m ready to go.”
As DePaola said, he’s once again fully healthy, but through two weeks of training camp, it’s not a foregone conclusion that he’ll return to his previous post, as Trent Sieg – the then-undrafted rookie who was called into action following his injury – is doing his best to make a claim for the job.
“It’s kind of, like you said, a unique situation,” Sieg said. “But the way I view it is whether I’m the starter with no one in camp with me or not, I’m competing against someone for my job every day, whether they’re here or not, so I just take it one day at a time and do the best I can.”
Just a week out from the first preseason game of the year, assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia finds himself in a unique situation – while some teams have trouble locking down one quality long snapper, he now has two on the roster.
“The decision on who the coach is going to keep isn’t up to you,” DePaola explained. “What you can control is what you can control and that’s kind of what I focus on, and I try to really not worthy about anything else.”
The fact remains, while DePaola and Sieg get along personally, the team will only carry one long snapper on the roster when regular-season action gets underway September 9.
So what exactly goes into a long snapper competition? By the sounds of it, quite a bit.
“There’s so many things,” said Bisaccia. “Everything from where are the laces on the catch on the short snaps and their ability to protect the A-gap, and as far as the B-gap, in the punt protection sets. And the ability to have any kind of awareness as to when the front changes and can he redirect on those things. They both played in games. Trent [Sieg] has played in 15 and Andrew [DePaola] has been playing a long time, so it’s a good competition right now. They are both in great shape. We are glad Andrew is healthy, so we are going to rotate those guys all through training camp as well.”
“Depends on your definition of fierce,” joked Sieg when asked to describe the battle between him and DePaola. “We’re not really out there popping pads every day, but yeah, DePaula is a hell of a snapper, and like I said, despite us having a competition, we’re out here trying to help each other out. We’re telling each other where snaps work in our drills, and everything, and like I said, we’re just kind of in agreement, may the best man win. We just know that we both deserve to be at this level.”
Like Sieg said, both he DePaola and are deserving of being on NFL rosters; which one of the two snappers ultimately takes hold of the Raiders job will be a battle that will likely take the entirety of the preseason to hash out.
Head out to Napa, Calif. for another day of training camp practice at the Raiders Napa Valley Training Complex.