Don Muhlbach was on the run.
With the Detroit Lions’ three-day minicamp over after Thursday’s practice, he didn’t stop to do interviews as he dashed from the indoor practice field to the locker room at the team’s Allen Park headquarters.
“No, no, no, no,” Muhlbach said pleasantly to approaching reporters before the first question could be asked.
Muhlbach’s career record compiled in 13 seasons with the Lions speaks for itself. He hasn’t lost his fastball – or his job as one of the NFL’s premier long snappers.
View photos from the final day of Detroit Lions 2017 minicamp.
His status was made certain with the roster moves the Lions made Thursday before practice.
The Lions added two offensive tackles to the 90-player offseason roster. They acquired Greg Robinson in a trade with the Los Angeles Rams, giving up an undisclosed draft pick, and signed free agent Cyrus Kouandjio, who’d spent the previous three seasons with Buffalo.
To make room on the roster, the Lions waived tackle Arturo Uzdavinis and long snapper Jimmy Landes.
Cutting Landes left Muhlbach as the only long snapper on the roster and ended any potential competition for the job.
Landes was drafted in the sixth round last year to compete with Muhlbach, but he never was a serious threat to beat him out. Landes wound up spending his rookie season on injured reserve. Muhlbach clearly had the upper hand this offseason.
“’Mules’ is our guy,” head coach Jim Caldwell said after Thursday’s roster moves.
“He hasn’t been good. He hasn’t been average. He’s been great.”
He’s also one of the most respected players in the locker room in addition to being a Pro Bowl player in 2012.
Muhlbach willingly gives advice to younger players – including Landes – and his decision not to do interviews Thursday no doubt was a show of respect for Landes, and not wanting to be seen as celebrating another player’s misfortune.
Muhlbach arrived in Detroit midway through the 2004 season as an injury replacement for Jody Littleton.
After watching Muhlbach’s workout, Lions president Matt Millen signed him and dubbed him “the Nolan Ryan of long snappers” for the velocity in getting the ball to the holder for kicks and punts.
The nickname has stuck – and so has Muhlbach’s efficiency, which makes the job easier for kicker Matt Prater and punter Sam Martin, who also holds for kicks.
Prater was asked Thursday what it would be like if he didn’t have Muhlbach to snap.
“Totally different,” Prater said. “He’s been here so long, and done such a good job with it.
“If there was any long snapper making it to the Hall of Fame, it would be him and Lonie Paxton. He’s done such a great job. He’ll play another 10 years, maybe. He’s awesome.”
Paxton played 12 years with the New England Patriots (2000-2008) and Denver Broncos (2009-2011) and was Prater’s teammate in Denver.
Muhlbach has been durable. He has played 196 games, tied for 24th among active NFL players and fourth most in Lions history.
He has missed only four games since his pro career began with the Lions in Game 9 of 2004 and has played all 16 games the last seven seasons.
Based on Prater’s comments, playing a 14th season – and beyond – should be a snap.