By Jeff Joniak-

HALAS HALL (CBS) In his 216th NFL game Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Patrick Mannelly begins a record 15th season with the Bears. It’s a stunning accomplishment no matter the position. Mannelly’s longevity speaks to his unique talent as a long snapper and understanding completely his role in the big picture. Doug Buffone and Hall of Famer Bill George both played 14 seasons with the Bears.

It’s also no shock Mannelly is once again the special teams captain for the Bears.

“Voted a captain is probably the greatest honor,” Mannelly said. “To me, your teammates are the most important, and if they honor you, that means a lot.”

Long snapping is a unique skill. When a team finds one they like, it typically means a long career. Mannelly is the only player from the 1998 draft still with his original team. However, the new collective bargaining agreement is impacting the position. Veterans with 10-years or more of service demand a minimum salary of $925,000. An undrafted rookie in the same position earns only $390,000 and it’s one of the reasons the Colts cut veteran Justin Snow in favor of untested rookie Matt Overton.

Mannelly is in the final year of his deal earning $925,000 and he is thrilled he is on this team.

“We have the most talent in the room I’ve seen in fifteen years,” he said. “It’s a fact. We’ve got weapons top to bottom, where it seems like before we’ve been stacked on defense and special teams and now we have an offense that is up to the standard the defense has set.”

Many veteran Bears are saying the same thing.

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play voice of the Chicago Bears on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM.

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