Niners sign long snapper to 5-year extension
AP Sports Writer
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) – Brian Jennings will be the San Francisco 49ers’ long snapper for longer than he ever imagined.
The 49ers signed Jennings to a five-year contract extension Saturday, locking up a flawless performer on their solid special teams units through 2014.
Jennings hasn’t made a glaring mistake on Sundays ever since the club drafted him in the seventh round nine years ago. He’s been recognized as one of the NFL’s most consistent long snappers since leaving Arizona State in 2000, even making the Pro Bowl after the 2004 season as a special selection by NFC coach Jim Mora.
“In a position like mine, longevity is one of your only accomplishments,” Jennings said. “I play a don’t-screw-it-up position. It feels good to be loved, to be wanted, to be appreciated for something I put so much time into.”
Jennings’ job is to deliver perfect snaps into the hands of Andy Lee, the 49ers’ former Pro Bowl punter who also holds for kicker Joe Nedney, one of the NFL’s most consistent at his position in recent years. Although he never seemed shaky even as a rookie under coach Steve Mariucci, Jennings acknowledged he didn’t feel completely comfortable in his job until after his second season.
“I was driving back to Arizona, and I was thinking, ‘I can do this,”‘ Jennings said.
San Francisco’s special teams haven’t been put in position to win many games during six consecutive losing seasons, but the trio of specialists has been almost as good as possible – and it’s all dependent on Jennings. Jennings also has worked out as a backup tight end, and he’s more aggressive on kick coverage than the average long snapper, making 53 tackles in his career.
He cites a game on Nov. 13, 2005, at Chicago as among his proudest achievements. He snapped perfectly in overwhelming wind and bitter cold, helping the 49ers score their only points on a day when the miserable club could only complete one pass.
Jennings and linebacker Jeff Ulbrich are the 49ers’ longest-tenured players, both entering their 10th seasons with the club. When he officially makes the roster, he’ll be recognized on the 10-Year Wall in the 49ers’ training complex among the portraits of the other players to last 10 years with the franchise.
Jennings is among the 49ers’ most talkative and ebullient players, making him a stark contrast to most long snappers who thrive on anonymity. He has spoken frequently in the past three years about his newfound devotion to yoga, which has restored strength from earlier football injuries while improving every aspect of his performance – even though Jennings already was pretty much perfect.
“It feels good that in big situations, the harder it gets, the better I do,” Jennings said.