Jansen Gets The Early Nod


The training camp competition at long snapper barely lasted one week.

But now that J.J. Jansen remains the only long snapper in camp, he's not basking in the glow of job security. Such a thing doesn't really exist in the NFL when 31 other teams are also in training camp and you play one of the most specialized positions in the game.

"I wouldn't say it's my job to lose," said Jansen, who became the team's lone long snapper beginning with last Sunday's Family Night scrimmage, when in-house competition Thomas Gafford was released to correspond with Ryan Grant signing his contract. "I still need to go out and win it.

"If I don't go out there and perform, the same thing could happen to me. I like to take that edge every single day and look at this as an opportunity to improve and really get ready for the season."

Jansen, a non-drafted rookie free agent out of Notre Dame, was brought in after the draft to compete with Gafford to see who would succeed Rob Davis, the Packers' longtime long snapper who retired following the 2007 season and moved into a new role as director of player development.

His reliability and consistency moved him ahead of Gafford on the depth chart by the end of the spring OTAs and mini-camp, and he opened training camp as the No. 1 long snapper. It was thought it would take the entire preseason to decide the winner, but the coaching staff will now evaluate beginning with the preseason opener against Cincinnati on Monday night whether Jansen is here to stay.

"Right now he's the 'it' guy, but he's going to have to do it every snap, in practice and getting ready for this game," special teams coordinator Mike Stock said. "Hopefully he'll grow with the performances he exhibits on the practice field, and with his experience in the game on Monday, he'll keep getting better.

"In some capacities it works out well because this affords him to take every snap."

With Jansen fresh out of college, one of the key questions with him has been whether he's fully up to the transition from the NCAA to the NFL. He played in front of huge crowds, both in South Bend and when the Fighting Irish were on the road, so that's to his benefit, and Notre Dame had its share of top competition on the schedule.

"I felt at Notre Dame we went up against a lot of really good teams with a lot of creative, aggressive play, but at the same time, it's the next step up," Jansen said. "Certainly, as a young snapper, I'm anticipating teams gunning for me, really trying to see if I have any weaknesses. It's an opportunity now to really focus on honing my craft."

The true test for Jansen in the preseason games will be whether he can handle the protection responsibilities on punts and field goals in addition to making clean snaps. If teams sense any weakness in the middle of the protection scheme, whether it be on one of Jon Ryan's punts or Mason Crosby's field goals, they'll attack it.

"Practice has been tough, and I've told them to put the pressure on him, and they've done that," Stock said. "He's reacted very well.

"He obviously has a lot of questions, but they're not questions that are ridiculous. He understands what his job is. He's been doing it a bunch of years in high school, a bunch of years in college, and he's very efficient."

{sportsad300}Jansen also needs to show that he can get down the field and help cover punts, something Davis did so well in his 11 years here. But he can't get so caught up in the protection and coverage efforts that he forgets Job 1.

"He can't protect what he doesn't snap perfectly, so that's the most important thing right there," Stock said. "Snap perfectly first, and then get into his protection mode, and then his final thing is to go down and cover and be a factor in the coverage element, and if he can't make a tackle, force the ball to somebody else who can.

"There's a lot of responsibilities in that one facet."

Which leaves plenty for Jansen to focus on, even if he's not competing with anyone else in a Green Bay uniform at the moment. The good news is there's more time for him to develop the chemistry with Ryan and Crosby that can produce the consistency needed on a snap-by-snap basis.

"The pressure is always there," Jansen said. "But now I'm feeling like I have a good opportunity to let those guys, Jon and Mason, really feel comfortable with me and hopefully give us a chance as a unit to be really successful this year."

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