by Matt Kawahara
OAKLAND -- Maybe no position in sports requires such specialized yet anonymous perfection as the football long snapper. He's only noticed when he messes up. And on Monday night, put in the difficult position of stepping in on a moment's notice for an injured Jon Condo, the Raiders' Travis Goethel was definitely noticed.
Condo exited the Raiders' 22-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers early in the second quarter with a head injury suffered on punt coverage. That meant the Raiders had to turn to their Plan B -- Goethel, the backup middle linebacker, who said he last snapped in a game in high school.
"Nobody has a backup snapper," quarterback Carson Palmer later said. "We've got a backup plan, but nobody has a backup snapper."
Goethel aced his first test on a Sebastian Janikowski 19-yard field goal that sent the Raiders into halftime down 10-6. But it went downhill from there. He bounced two snaps to punter Shane Lechler that led to Lechler being tackled, giving the Chargers the ball in Raiders territory. Lechler had a third punt attempt blocked, his first blocked punt since Oct. 8, 2006. All three led to Chargers field goals.
"He's worked on snapping the ball," head coach Dennis Allen said of Goethel. "Actually he's done a nice job in practice. It's obviously a lot different when you get in a game-like situation. He was put in a tough situation and it hurt us."
Goethel said he didn't have much notice before going in for his first snap.
"That notice right there when he went down and I got put in," Goethel said. "Trust me, I wish it never happened.
"(Allen) asked if I knew how to long snap, and I was the only one at camp that stood out. That's kind of how I got put in there."
As for reps in practice, Goethel said: "I basically just practiced before practice. That's about it with the snapping and stuff. I'm just a linebacker and special teams."
The Raiders did get one punt off with Goethel snapping at the end of the third quarter. And the blocked punt did not come on a bounced snap -- the Chargers' Dante Rosario came through the right side of the line virtually untouched. But Lechler clearly appeared to be standing closer to the line of scrimmage on that punt attempt, which came after the first bounced snap, giving him less time to get the kick away.
Snapping off the dirt infield at O.co Coliseum didn't make it any easier. Goethel said Lechler "just told me to keep my head up, send the snaps back to him, basically. Don't worry about it. Of course, I'm going to worry about it when I do a bad snap."
Goethel said he believes he'd feel more comfortable snapping with a few days of practice, but it's not certain he'll get that chance.
"We'll look at that tomorrow and we'll find out what options we have available to us, but we'll make sure we have someone who can handle those duties," Allen said.