Thomas Fletcher battling for position with Carolina Panthers


Thomas Fletcher or JJ Jansen will be the Carolina Panthers’ long snapper – a position that doesn’t have a depth chart. One will be in the regular season roster, and the other will not.

Jansen has been the Panthers’ long snapper for 12 seasons. Fletcher joined Carolina from Alabama in the sixth round of the NFL Draft on April 30.

“It’s a battle” says Chase Blackburn, the Panther Special Teams Coordinator.

Carolina still has three practices on its offseason schedule – a mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday – before stopping until players show up for training camp on July 27.

“JJ concentrated a lot on this camp”, Blackburn said Wednesday. “I think that surge has kind of helped him rejuvenate himself, I guess, a bit. Just that little extra motivation and the desire to be perfect at whatever he does and to be laser focused, which I think has also given Fletch a lot of competition because he’s like, ‘ Oh, just because I got drafted it’s not my job, ‘and make him protect more and understand some of the little things JJ has done being able to play for so long. He captures those little details, and he’s made a lot of progress in the last four or five workouts, I would say.

Blackburn said long snappers need to move from college to the NFL just like players in other positions.

“The first two weeks (Fletcher) was doing pretty well, and his speed was good, his accuracy was good,” Blackburn said. “And we started to introduce a little bit of protection, and you saw a little peck, just with the nerves. And then after he’s settled in for four or five days, I think he’s really recovered, so it’s going to be a good fight while we’re going through it.

THOMAS FLETCHER COULD NOT BELIEVE HE WAS RECRUITED BY THE PANTHERS

Jansen’s most recent bad snap happened in the first game of the 2010 season, so Blackburn said the veteran’s performance did not prompt the Panthers to draft Fletcher. Fletcher convinced Carolina to recruit him through his work at Reese’s Senior Bowl in January, when the Panthers coaching staff guided one of the all-star teams.

“It was nothing with JJ’s game. I still think he’s a leading long snapper ”, Blackburn said. “I think I got Fletch firsthand – obviously watching him, rating all his movies, then having him firsthand at the Senior Bowl, seeing his personality, how he was with the Specialist group, how he was with the team. , then getting a one-on-one protective stuff with him and seeing it in a pro style, that helped us solidify the fact, “Yeah, he can do it at this level” where some guys , even bettors or snappers at college level, they do a lot of rugby deployment or they don’t protect because in college the snapper can just take off. You see smaller bodies, different body types that don’t necessarily translate to the next level, so it’s a little harder to assess.

“When you get a guy for a week one-on-one it’s a little easier to get your hands on him and mold him a bit and see exactly what he can do, then that was the exciting part with Fletch. We’ll see how it goes. “

Blackburn said long snappers would be rated on “everything – speed, accuracy, laces, protection, covering ability – I mean, you name it, we got it. Everything goes there. Everything else, they’ll find upstairs or whatever. But I strictly evaluate the game and how they do it, and I rate each rep. At the end of the day, they will make the decision.

Fletcher received a signing bonus of $ 130,708 and would be entitled to a base salary of $ 660,000 during the 2021 season if he makes the squad. Jansen would get a base salary of $ 1.075 million and a roster bonus of $ 137,500 if he was on the regular season roster. Fletcher would have $ 692,677 and Jansen would have $ 987,500 against Carolina’s salary cap this season.

The loser of the competition could end up slamming for another team and still be valuable to the Panthers via a trade. Carolina acquired Jansen from the Green Bay Packers in 2009 for a seventh-round draft pick.

“I think they’re both talented enough to play in this league and play for several years,” Blackburn said. “JJ has a few more years in the tank, in my opinion, and Thomas is just getting started. There is still a lot of good football between these two guys. “

Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.

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