Jake Laptad's awkward one-day tenure as the Bears' long-snapper ranks below the other awkward moments in Jerry Angelo's 11 years as the Bears general manager -- the botched trade with the Ravens last April; director of college scouting Greg Gabriel having to tell University of Buffalo running back James Starks he wasn't being drafted by the Bears after telling him he was; and the "checked-box" fiasco in 2002 that forced them to overpay linebacker Warrick Holdman.
But, as Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub told me Friday after practice, ''We got it right'' when the Bears released Laptad after he struggled with long-snapping in his first practice on Wednesday and signed veteran Chris Massey to replace him. ''That's the bottom line,'' Toub said. ''Sometimes it takes a couple of days to get it right and that's what we did. Chris Massey's going to do a great job for us.''
The episode began Sunday, when 14-year veteran Pat Mannelly, considered by many the best long-snapper in the NFL, suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on a PAT in the Bears' victory over the San Diego Chargers. Fullback Tyler Clutts replaced Mannelly for the rest of the game and handled three PATs and a snap on a fake punt without incident.
But the Bears preferred to have a full-time long-snapper, so they signed Laptad, a rookie defensive end from Kansas who had worked with Mannelly as a long-snapper in training camp and even snapped in place of Mannelly in the Bears' final preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. NFL teams usually like to have players tryout against other players -- handling the pressure of the competition is the part of the tryout that best simulates an actual game. But the Bears did not put Laptad through a tryout against other long-snappers and signed him based on their previous knowledge of his ability.
''We were trying to show full confidence in him,'' Toub said. ''You don't want to crack his confidence by bringing in a lot of guys. We wanted to give him a good shot.''
That turned out to be a mistake. At least give the Bears credit for recognizing it before an actual game.
''He's just not ready yet,'' Toub said. ''Maybe down the road, but not right now, so we had to move in a different direction and get somebody with more experience.''
It would seem that one day is not much time to give a rookie such as Laptad. But apparently it was pretty clear that Laptad wasn't ready.
''You can tell,'' Toub said. ''He's a rookie. You put him in a situation where he's snapping in front of a lot of guys -- the whole team. It just doesn't work out. He's just not accurate enough and we had to go in a different direction.''
Massey is a nine-year veteran who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2002, when Mike Martz was the Rams' head coach and Lovie Smith was their defensive coordinator. He was considered one of the better long-snappers in the game. But he was cut in August in favor of a rookie.
Though the snapper is often taken for granted, it can quickly become a problem. Last season the San Diego Chargers lost veteran long-snapper David Binn for the season in Week 1. They ended up signing four other long-snappers. One of them, veteran Ethan Albright, played his second game against the Raiders in Oakland-Alameda County Stadium. The Chargers' first two punts were blocked -- one for a safety, the other for a touchdown. Their third punt was returned 46 yards. The Chargers cut Albright three days later.
''We're expecting them to come after us full bore,'' Toub said. ''We're expecting that. They've got a lot of speed. The y could put eight guys in the box. They could bring even more if they wanted. They're going to try and rattle us. We're expecting that.''