I had the fortune to sit down with Bills LS Reid Ferguson last month to ask him some questions regarding his origins as a long snapper, his injuries, preparation and recovery after each week, off-season training, and some fun questions at the end. If you haven’t figured out already from his other media appearances, Reid is a well-spoken, down-to-earth person who enjoys many things outside of football and does a lot of charity work including advocating for diabetes. Reid was gracious enough to give me some of his time to share his thoughts with everyone.
Give the readers a brief background on where you’re from, your education, and how you became a long snapper.
Hometown: Buford, GA
Position: Long Snapper
Degree: Sports Business & Sociology ‘15
Bills Jersey: #69
In 8th grade, the guy ahead of me got hurt, I was playing DE and TE, the center and snapper got hurt, I wasn’t playing much on defense or tight end, I really wasn’t playing at all, my Dad said, the guy got hurt, why don’t we give it a shot, see if it’s a way to get you snaps on the field.
My dad did the same thing playing baseball, telling me to try catcher, I played the position, I wasn’t very good, but I understand where your dad was coming from saying that.
In your high school/collegiate/pro football career, have you had the misfortune to deal with any serious injuries?
I have been able to avoid serious injury for the most part. I have been fortunate to also avoid any concussions.
Any moderate/nagging ones you had to work through?
My thumb, senior night in high school, I was playing offensive line and went for a block, the thumb went back and the muscle pulled off the bone on my non-dominant hand. I was out for 4 games, had to have surgery with a pin inserted to stabilize the fracture but I was able to come back and snap in the semi-final and state championship game later that season.
Other than that, I haven’t had any nagging injuries during my time with the Bills, I haven’t missed any games, nothing even notable, just sore after a game. I’m definitely fortunate. It’s silly for me to think that I can go an entire career without something happening, but as you get older, it’s something you just gotta work to prevent more than anything, if it happens, it happens. Every coach tells you the same thing, if you played scared, you’re going to get hurt; Gotta play fast.
Did you learn anything about your body or yourself during your thumb injury?
It was a long time ago, It was only 4 weeks, I just remember it going by pretty fast and remember it sucking knowing I couldn’t be out there playing in the playoffs even knowing that I could run and everything.
In your NFL career, how do you manage injuries if they do occur during the season?
Cryotherapy has been a big addition to my recovery process. Now that the facility has one, I do it almost every day. That helps me in recovery, but also, I feel that it helps me sleep better. I don’t have any problems sleeping; it gives me a deeper sleep. I wake up feeling better the next day. It helps a lot, especially after a night game.
The chiropractor also helps out a lot in regards to treatment. I’ll see the team chiropractor on Wednesdays and Sundays before the game. Just minor adjustments. During training camp, when we’re hitting it, going really hard every day, I use the NormaTec boots every day to help flush the legs a little bit in between a lift and practice or post-practice. I also stay hydrated, I try to drink as much water as I can.
Cryotherapy makes the biggest difference and then sleep, resting. A lot of guys my age that play in the league, I think don’t rest as much as they should. I think they underestimate that early in their careers. I think I’m a little ahead of the game. Just trying to get an adequate amount of sleep, got to fit it in where you can.
Author’s note on Cryotherapy and NormaTec boots:
Cryotherapy is generally known as using cold temperatures to aid in injury management and recovery. The general mechanism of cold is to reduce inflammation and pain in an injured area. Cold therapy promotes blood vessel constriction which reduces the inflammation response that is a protective measure of the body following injury. If this phase can be shortened, then return to function can occur sooner.
With cryotherapy tanks, an individual is placed into a standing tank for 2-3 minutes where subzero cool air is passed over the skin for several minutes, dropping the temperature of the skin temporarily to achieve a systemic cold response. This cuts down on time spent recovering by addressing the entire body at once and reduces the risk of frostbite under proper supervision. To read more, click here.
NormaTec or pneumatic compression boots are air-filled compression sleeves that assist with milking out excess fluid in a joint/limb. These are commonly seen in lymphedema patients but are incredibly useful for athletes as well.
During strenuous activity, lactic acid builds up as glucose, which is fuel in the body, oxidizes down into pyruvate which turns into lactate. Lactate levels rise faster than the body can process and begins to settle in the muscles. The presence of lactic acid acts as a protective measure of the body to prevent overworking and tissue breakdown. While this is an important function of the body, minimizing buildup reduces soreness after activity and will allow for a more effective and quicker recovery via the use of the boots.
The purpose of the NormaTec boots is to move excess fluid out in a uniform manner. The sleeve increases in pressure distally or furthest from the body and alternates increasing pressure as it moves up the leg. This is similar to squeezing the bottom of the toothpaste tube, working all the excess towards the top. The pneumatic compression works lactic acid and wastes out of the muscles and back into the circulatory system to be processed and filtered out of the body. To read more, click here.
Between the NormaTec boots and cryotherapy, these are designed to reduce the body’s response to strenuous activity and aid in recovery to maximize future function.
How do you prepare for your job each week knowing that you do not have a long snapping coach or are there resources for you to work through difficulties you experience?
Each special team’s coach is a little different, some know more than others. It really depends on the relationship between the kicker and the coach or the punter and the coach and how much they want to get information from the coach. If the specialist doesn’t want information from the coach, they usually make it known. The coach may watch films, but not be overly aggressive and teach or fix problems.
It all just depends, some specialists like feedback wherever they can get it, they like having two, three, four pairs of eyes on their craft. Someone may see something that they’re not catching. Most special teams’ coaches aren’t familiar with how we operate, they’re more familiar with kickers and punters. A lot of the work comes on our own. I would say it’s more of a player-by-player preference.
You have gotten to this level, you know what you need to do, it’s more of a figure it out by yourself. You also went to the Chris Rubio long snapping camps, have you ever contacted him for advice?
He still does camps around the country and does private lessons, but he lives out in Idaho, so he’s hard to get to. I’ve reached out to former snappers and current snappers to get tips here or there. Asking guys after games, like what do you do with your feet when getting ready for a field goal snap. Do you scoot your feet up a little? If you extend your arms out a little further, you can get more pull on the ball? Things like that. Every guy is willing to help each other out.
Now that you have finished your 3rd pro season, how have you shaped your off-season program? i.e. what do you focus on, how do you keep in shape? What services do you seek out?
Usually, after the season, I take 2-3 weeks off and just chill. After that, I start getting back into working out twice a week with CrossFit because it’s something different for a couple of weeks. During training camp and the regular season, we’re up here doing similar workouts, so it breaks it up in the offseason. During this time, I won’t be snapping until late February.
Then, I’ll start snapping once a week for 2 weeks, ramping that up. Once March hits, I’ll increase my workouts to 3 times a week and incorporate some running. I’ll then progress my snapping to 1-2 times a week and begin focusing on getting my weights back up, working on agility drills, and then that’ll take me 3-4 days a week. I always take the weekends off, Saturdays and Sundays. I’m a big believer in that.
As for recovery, I still do cryo 1x/week at home as it can be expensive and I’ll go to the Chiropractor every couple of weeks. I also used to work as a Chiropractic Assistant in the spring of 2017 back home and got affiliated with my chiropractor that way and as a part of my recovery process. I also do incorporate Yoga sometimes. I do a lot of stretching on my own at my house. That’s a huge part of my job, staying as flexible as I can be. Makes a huge difference.
Do you try to avoid high-level activities in the offseason like long-distance biking, mountain climbing, distance running?
Yea, I try to avoid that for the most part. So I work out Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Take Wednesday as an off day. So when I was back home, my girlfriend came in and I did an active recovery day, took a hike up Stone Mountain, mile up, mile down, nothing too strenuous. Just something to get out and enjoy.
Even though you are not out on the field as much as your teammates, how do you stay focused mentally and physically, ready for when you are called upon?
That’s a good question. It’s not easy, but it’s not super hard. It is important to be locked into the situation to the game, whatever may be happening like a pick 6 where we would have to run out there and execute. You have to always stay ready. There are definitely lulls in the game that you feel. From a routine standpoint, every time we get the ball on offense, I do two punt snaps to get the rhythm back. Every time we cross the 50-yard line, I start getting in some short snaps for field goals. I’ve been doing that for a long time.
What is one part of your lifting routine that people would be surprised that you focus on for the specifics of long snapping?
I do a lot of ankle movements, stretching, and neck strength, I focus a lot of my neck. I focus on lats (latissimus dorsi). Being able to pull the ball through. I also focus on ankles, Achilles having to bend down so much, that’s huge for me.
Can you elaborate on the neck strengthening?
I do weighted, resistive movements, holds directionally, press-ups against holds. This is part of the fine-tuning; secondary stuff to help me get ready.
Do you ever do bridging for neck strengthening?
Like you see in wrestling, front bridges, back bridges. Touch your ears, nose, back of the head. You should ask Coach McDermott about that. He knows a thing or two about that.
Moving on, do you take anything into preference/consideration with your helmet or cleat selection? Or just what fits your comfort level?
They press us to use a helmet that’s above a certain grade. I’ve been using the same helmet for a couple of years. It’s a solid helmet. Cleats-wise, I use what’s most comfortable. Nike stopped making the cleats that I liked, so I switched to Under Armour. As for shoulder pads, pretty much stay the same as they’re specially made for snappers. There are no pads near the armpits to get the full range of motion.
That’s it for the main questions, now I have some general questions to wrap up the interview.
It’s been brought up in the past that you work with your brother with Type 1 Diabetes. When was he diagnosed?
I have to think about this one, about 2010-2011, I think he’s had it for about 8-9 years.
He’s obviously been able to transition from high school to college football to play at a D1 level with his condition.
Yea, he’s crushed it, I’m extremely proud of him to be able to do that, it’s not easy.
In the past, you’ve done some advocating for diabetes in Washington D.C., tell me more about that.
We did that last offseason, and then the past 2 years, I have done the “My Cause, My Cleats” for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. During the advocating, we were focusing on more research and funding for that trip. I also go to do hospital visits, charities, fundraisers with my brother around Atlanta and just try to stay involved. I’ve done most of my advocating for Type 1 Diabetes due to my brother Blake, but both of my grandmas have Type 2, so it’s definitely on the radar.
You have a dog named Buck, he’s a Goldendoodle. Tell me about him.
He’s 8 months old. He’s been a good companion and doesn’t bark much. He’s pretty low maintenance.
Any favorite places you like taking him?
There have been some parks back home in Atlanta, but the weather has been so bad up here in May, I don’t want to take him anywhere where it’s going to get super muddy. I want to take him over to Knox Farm in East Aurora sometime when it dries up. That’s where I have been recommended to go.
I also recommend Chestnut Ridge Park if you like hiking, plus it has paved trails to avoid the mud.
You enjoy soccer, you mentioned that Chelsea is your favorite team. How did you end up becoming a fan?
They had a couple of players that I liked watching when I first started following, and it’s kind of just stuck with me. I started watching 2013-2014, that’s when I got hooked.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Buffalo?
Ooooo, Pearl Street, love Pearl Street.
What’s your favorite dish?
The pizza is really good. I also like the roast beef sandwich is really delicious.
Have you had the six-cheese bow-tie pasta?
No, is it good?
It’s excellent, had it at banquets and my wedding reception, it’s worth trying next time you go there.
Is there anything that I didn’t cover that you want the readers to know or anything that I didn’t ask?
Nothing comes to mind, I believe that I covered everything that pertains to me.
I would like to thank Reid for taking the time to sit down with me and discuss his life in the NFL. Next time you’re watching a Bills game, focus on the special teams’ play including long snapping. There is far more complexity that goes into the position than one may initially think and there is a reason that long snapping is a special team’s necessity.
If you liked this interview and want to support Reid, you can follow him on Twitter @SnapFlow69. You can support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation by donating anytime at the link for JDRF. You can also donate during the “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign during the NFL season when Reid dons a pair of cleats advocating for JDRF.