Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and … John Denney? Yes, Miami Dolphins’ elite list has new member

Dolphins long snapper John Denney has had a unique view in his 13-year NFL career. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

DAVIE — Long snapper John Denney turned around and saw a rare sight: a group of reporters gathered at his locker in a semicircle, waiting to talk to him.

And he knew why.

“Because I’m such a crucial piece to this game,” he said. “And all the fans pay to see me snap, right?”

Denney has long accepted being the most-tenured and most-overlooked player on the Dolphins. He’s so easily overlooked that he’ll be a crucial piece — to borrow his words — of a wicked trivia question.

John Denney. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

Name only three players to appear in 200 games for the Dolphins?

Dan Marino (242) and Jason Taylor (204) would be two correct responses, but Sunday night against the Oakland Raiders, Denney will join the 200 club.

“It’s an honor,” said Denney, 38. “But really, it’s another game. It’s been one at a time for my whole career and it just happened to be a round number this week.”

Denney will accomplish this by playing in his 200th consecutive game. Asked if he’s proud of that record, Denney said, “Proud? I don’t know if that’s the right word. I feel lucky.”

He has had injuries since joining the Dolphins in 2005. If he played any other position, he would have missed time. But being a long snapper, “I can get away with a lot,” he said.

His longevity, not to mention his long-term health, received a boost in recent years as the league has ceased to allow pass rushers to line up directly over him. Before, he said, “You’re bent over with your head between your legs and they can tee off as fast as they want.”

When Denney joined the Dolphins, Nick Saban was the coach, Gus Frerotte was the quarterback, Ronnie Brown the leading rusher and Wes Welker the return specialist. Denney went on to make the Pro Bowl in 2010 and ’12.

“John does a phenomenal job of keeping in outstanding shape,” said Darren Rizzi, the Dolphins’ special teams coordinator. “This is not a knock on the rest of the long snappers in the league, but some of those guys aren’t in the best condition in the world.”

Rizzi said Denney seems to be at the training facility as often Rizzi is, during the season or not.

“I think a lot of the younger players are surprised at how well conditioned he is,” Rizzi said.

That enables Denney to not only perfect snapping — his primary task, of course — but also be a good blocker and get downfield to help cover kicks. Denney credits “full-body conditioning,” including a focus on nutrition.

Denney is consistent to the point that it’s difficult to recall the last time he botched a snap. Denney was cagey as to whether he keeps track of such things.

“I can’t remember any,” he joked. “CTE, I don’t know.”

John Denney by the numbers

Most consecutive games played in Dolphins history

                                             No.             Years

  1. John Denney             199           2005 present
  2. Jason Taylor              130           1999-2007
  3. Jim Langer                 128           1970-79

Denney the numbers

4 holders

8 punters

15 kickers

369 FGs (80.2 pct)

407 PATs (98.3 pct)

997 punts

1,773 total snaps in regular season

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Miami Dolphins LB Mike Hull has an interesting side job

Mike Hull does more than just play linebacker. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

DAVIE—The NFL is a league of contingency plans, and while the Dolphins haven’t worried much about the long snapper position during John Denney’s 13 years with the team, they do have a backup plan.

This came up when Denney was dealing with a minor injury: It turns out linebacker Mike Hull would go in for him if there was ever an issue. He picked up the rather obscure skill in his senior season at Penn State with an eye on helping his long-term football future and has kept it up since coming to the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie in 2015.

“I was like, ‘Hey, I might start long snapping to add value for the next level,’ so I started practicing and picked it up and never looked back,” he said. “I just asked guys that I was around for little tips and pointers and just started fine tuning my skills. I’m nowhere near as good as John Denney, but I think if I was called upon, I’d be good enough to get it back there for sure.”

It’s a more difficult skill to master than some people might realize. High school players can get major college scholarships just for doing that, and guys like Denney have hauled in serious money as pros. It’s a crucial role, too, as it can make a punt or field goal attempt go haywire if it’s not done right.

Hull stays sharp with it at all times. He works on long snapping twice a week with assistant coach Marwan Maalouf after practice, taking about 15 reps. He’s never done it in a game at any level, but he wouldn’t have any hesitation.

“I don’t know about calm, but I think I’d be able to get it back there and do my job and do what I’m supposed to do for the team, for sure,” he said. “I feel confident enough that I could get it done.”

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Miami Dolphins ironman John Denney, 36, could face most serious challenge yet

John Denney has played a club-record 192 consecutive games dating back to 2005, when he won the long snapper job over veteran Ed Perry. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

When long snapper John Denney arrived in Davie, George W. Bush was president and Nick Saban was settling in as Dolphins coach.

Denney not only outlasted Saban, but he survived Cam Cameron and four others (including interim coaches) before Adam Gase arrived.

Question is, will he survive Winston Chapman?

Denney, 36, is the Dolphins’ elder statesman and aiming to enter his 13th NFL season. To do so, he’ll have to fend off a challenge of Chapman, a 24-year-old undrafted free agent from Mississippi State.

This isn’t a challenge to be ignored. Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi revealed that the Dolphins have had their eye on Chapman for a year. Unfortunately for Chapman, he suffered an ACL injury his senior season.

“We really liked his skillset,” Rizzi said. “So he’s been out for a year and now he’s fully healthy.”

Rizzi called Chapman “a very solid snapper.”

There’s also this: “Look,” Rizzi said. “John is getting up there in age.”

True, but Denney’s qualifications speak for themselves. He has been to two Pro Bowls. He’s the team’s all-time ironman, playing a club-record 192 consecutive games and counting.

And he’s a Rizzi favorite, judging by the razzing Rizzi gives.

“John is older than me,” joked Rizzi, who’s actually 8 years older. “Not quite. He has as many kids, though. Combination-wise, I think we have 10 kids together. That’s a little nutty. So we’re always talking kid stories.”

Rizzi isn’t pushing Denney out to pasture.

“I still feel very strongly about him,” Rizzi said. “ … He’s in tremendous physical condition for a guy at his age. I don’t know if there’s a guy that has a better work ethic than John. He’s a guy, I think he’s probably in the building more than I was in the offseason. He’s always here, always working on his body, always working on his skill.”

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Miami Dolphins sign new long snapper in Winston Chapman

Winston Chapman will try to earn the long snapper spot with Miami. (Team Jackson Kicking)
Winston Chapman will try to earn the long snapper spot with Miami. (Team Jackson Kicking)

It’s typically the most overlooked position on the field, but teams can’t afford any issues with their long snappers.
Continue reading “Miami Dolphins sign new long snapper in Winston Chapman”

Should these Dolphins stay or go in 2016? (Specialists)

The Dolphins have major decisions to make with impending free agents and players who might be too costly to keep. Here’s a look at every player who finished the season on the 53-man roster (or injured reserve or the suspension list) with beat writer Andrew Abramson’s prediction for whether or not he will remain on the team in 2016.

You get to make your predictions, too!

Vote: Should these Miami Dolphins stay or should they go in 2016?

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