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Special teams are the red-headed step-child of the NFL. All the press, glory and quite often money are afforded to the offensive and defensive players. Kickoffs and punts are seen as stepping stones, a way for a player to get noticed and promoted. But things are a bit different around Halas Hall, as the Bears special teams are given a place at the table.
This started with Devin Hester's reaction to breaking the return touchdown record. When speaking to media, he became emotional and wondered why the other 10 people who were on the field for the record-breaking touchdown weren't standing with him. Though Hester is the man in the record books, he knows that the record belongs to the entire special teams unit.
A key piece of that unit since 1998 is Patrick Mannelly, the team's long-snapper. He was given a three-year contract extension. Though terms weren't disclosed, hopefully the man was given everything he wanted. Long-snapping is a unique and difficult skill, and Mannelly is really good at it. If he wanted a villa on Lake Michigan, a collection of vintage Beanie Babies and a never-ending supply of Garrett's popcorn, then a Bears intern better get in line for some delicious caramel corn. Mannelly is worth it.
The Bears haven't relegated special teams to second class citizens. The Bears are also 11-4, NFC North Champions, and with a win over the Packers, the two-seed heading into the playoffs. Other teams might want to follow in their lead.