With job safe, Lions' Muhlbach breathes sigh of relief

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
On Monday, the Lions placed rookie Jimmy Landes, right, on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, ensuring a 13th season snapping punts, field goals and extra points for Don Muhlbach.

Allen Park -- Don Muhlbach jokes that he's pessimistic by nature. So when the Detroit Lions drafted competition for the long snapping job he's held the past 12 seasons, it was probably difficult for him to see the situation playing out in his favor.

As it turns out, it never reached a point where the organization had to make a decision. On Monday, the Lions placed rookie Jimmy Landes on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, ensuring Muhlbach a 13th season snapping punts, field goals and extra points.

Of course it would have been nice if someone would have told him he won the job. He was lifting in the weight room when teammate Dan Orlovsky shared the reports that had trickled out on social media early that afternoon.

"It was a deep breath," Muhlbach said. "I'm sure my family will be happy when I get home today."

It's been a strange offseason for Muhlbach. He's simply not used to this kind of attention. As he puts it, his annual routine has been pretty consistent the past several years.

"Usually it's go, shut up and do your job and no one talks to you until something bad happens," Muhlbach.

This year, no one has been ignoring the long snapper. It's been closer to the opposite. The eyes of the organization, the media and even the fans have been trying to sort out the minute differences in snap speed, accuracy, and most importantly, consistency.

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Muhlbach is human. He can admit he prefers the existence where he's not under a microscope, but he also acknowledges having Landes in camp pushed him to be better at his job.

"Every day, when you know there's that much more focus from other angles, not just me focusing on what I'm doing, but everyone focusing, it helps you zero in a little bit better," Muhlbach said.

Even if Landes had not landed on IR, Muhlbach might have won the competition outright. During Saturday's exhibition game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Lions gave the rookie an extended audition, having him perform all 10 of the game's long snaps. The struggles were obvious, with punt snaps coming in high or wide and two field goal snaps skimming the ground.

Two days later, Landes' season is over. He'll come back next year and there's a good chance he and Muhlbach will square off in training camp once again.

"I'm not ready for it to be over yet," Muhlbach said. "It's nice to be here, hopefully for another year."