Bengals place veteran long snapper on injured reserve, sign rookie from practice squad

Bengals play at Dallas in Week 2 after losing in overtime at home to Steelers

CINCINNATI -- Clark Harris knew he messed up his arm as soon as he wrapped up the opponent covering a punt in the fourth quarter of the Cincinnati Bengals’ overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

On Monday, he was answering questions — with his right arm in a sling — about the possibility of his season being done.

The 14-year veteran suffered a biceps injury that landed him on the Reserve/Injured list Monday, but he said he will get a second opinion for the final diagnosis Tuesday. The Bengals signed rookie Cal Adomitis from the practice squad, and he will be serving as the team’s long snapper for at least the next four games.

Harris said he overextended his arm trying to make a tackle on a punt return, and when he tried to practice a few snaps on the sideline to see if he could possibly stay in the game, he was unable. In his absence, Mitch Wilcox, a tight end, stepped up as the in-game emergency long snapper on one punt, a blocked field goal at the end of regulation that would have won the game and a missed 29-yard field goal in overtime.

ExploreARCHDEACON: Bengals’ Wilcox thrust into unwelcome spotlight after injury to long snapper

“It sucks,” Harris said of his injury. “Anytime I’m not out there, I hate it, especially in the middle of the game, not being able to come back and especially now. I’m going to be around the building regardless of what happens. I am going to be hanging out with the guys, trying to help Cal as much as possible and help as much as I can with the other special teams, so emotionally, it sucks. But you know, I’ll get through it. We’re football players. It’s what we do. Injuries, they happen. I just have been fortunate for the past 16 years to not really get injured.”

Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said Wilcox did what he was asked to do in a difficult situation. His snap on the missed PAT appeared to be a little slow, but wasn’t a factor because the hold was fine and McPherson’s kick was perfect. The problem was Drew Sample stepped the wrong way in protection on the left wing, and Minkah Fitzpatrick blew by him to block the attempt.

The missed field goal in overtime was a high snap, but McPherson should have been able to manage that still and simply got a little thrown off his routine.

An unfortunate injury like Harris’ is why Simmons said he fought so hard to keep Adomitis with the team as a member of the practice squad. Harris is 38 years old and nearing the end of his career, and at some point the Bengals will need a new long snapper. Of course, it wasn’t expected to happen so soon and because of injury to a player who has missed three games in his career (because of a groin injury in 2016) and never had an unplayable snap in more than 1,800 attempts over 13 seasons with the Bengals.

“It’s a fluke,” Harris said. “Besides those three games I missed a few years ago, I’ve never missed a game since ninth grade football so it’s really weird to have to miss a game and not really know what to do at this point.”

Harris thought Adomitis was good enough to possibly take his job when he came in this offseason as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Pittsburgh. Adomitis was considered the nation’s top long snapper last year in the college game, and he made it a tough competition in training camp.

The one thing Simmons said Adomitis needs to work on is his blocking. He had covered on special teams in college but only had to block his first three seasons at Pitt when they ran a pro-style punt system that engages the center in snapping. His final two years he did not have to block.

Adomitis said he has a few things to work on this week, but he expects to be ready for Sunday’s game at Dallas.

“It’s certainly been a whirlwind,” Adomitis said. “But, you know, sometimes life just comes at you fast and you just react and you fall back onto your habits and I guess improve the things that you’ve worked to improve on through the years, and you just trust yourself that you’re prepared for the moment. It’s been great to spend this whole OTAs and camp working with Clark because he’s been an absolute class act. In my opinion, I think he’s the best ever to do it as long snapper. With that in mind and then having coach Simmons as well, I feel amply prepared to step in and get the job done.”

If Harris is done for the year, he says he is not planning on letting this be the end of his career. He never considered retirement after the Super Bowl, though some thought he might not be able to come back at the same level after undergoing surgery on his left thumb this offseason — an injury he played through last year for almost half the season.

“I’ve had a long career,” Harris said. “I’m not gonna go out on an injury. I’ve got to go out on a good note in the way I want to. I’m not going to let an injury be the thing that takes me out of playing football.”

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