The idea started in the NFL long-snapper group chat earlier this season, Rick Lovato said. It moved ahead quickly, partly thanks to Giants long snapper Zak DeOssie being an NFL Players Association vice president.
(Before we go any farther, yes, the NFL long-snapper group chat is a thing. Members must be able to text upside-down, with their heads between their legs. Or not.)
Anyhow, Lovato said the original plan was to have NFL specialists -- punters, kickers, holders, long snappers -- vote on their peers next year, but the idea ended up getting approved for this year, and lo and behold, Lovato was the pick of his group.
“It’s really sweet to see how tightknit this community is, as long snappers," said Lovato, 27, who is the first Old Dominion alum selected to the Pro Bowl. He might be the first guy voted in from Middletown, N.J., whose family operates a sandwich shop, as well, but that is unclear.
Previously, head coaches made the long-snapping selection.
“To be able to be announced -- when before it was just a coach, whoever got picked [to coach the team], they picked the long snapper -- so to be able to go out there and represent everyone who voted for me around the league, it’s an incredible honor,” Lovato said.
Lovato replaced Eagles fan favorite Jon Dorenbos in 2017. Last month he signed a four-year contract extension that will keep him with the Eagles through 2025.
Lovato said he got the word a few hours before the official Tuesday evening announcement.
"I’m like, ‘Why is Doug Pederson calling me right now?’ " he said. “I’m not the one to get calls from him very often ... I was [surprised].”
Lovato has been flawless with the snaps this season, and he leads NFL long snappers in tackles after punts, he said.
“Just to be around all those superstars from around the NFL is going to be really neat,” Lovato said.
Lovato joined right guard Brandon Brooks, tight end Zach Ertz, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and center Jason Kelce among Eagles players voted into the game, which is scheduled for Jan. 26 in Orlando, Fla.
Stuck in the wrong lane?
Right tackle Lane Johnson, who did not practice Wednesday with the high-ankle sprain that kept him out of last Sunday’s victory at Washington, was not available to reporters. But right guard Brandon Brooks, who is headed for the Pro Bowl for the third year in a row, spoke up in Johnson’s behalf.
Johnson was not selected for the all-star contest in player voting. He has gotten in the past two years, making it as an alternate in 2018. He was voted in, in 2017, as the Eagles rolled toward the Super Bowl. Green Bay’s David Bakhtiari, Dallas’s Tyron Smith, and New Orleans’ Terron Armstead were the selections this year; all three are left tackles.
Brooks said the idea that left tackles are more important, imprinted in NFL minds by such things as the movie “The Blind Side,” is outdated.
“With the way the game is going now, some of the best rushers are actually on the right side. There’s not very many rushers like Lane Johnson, who can consistently and continuously stop those guys, one-on-one, every Sunday,” Brooks said.
“Lane’s one of the best, if not the best tackle playing out there. It’s just unfortunate how it is.”
It is unclear if Johnson will be able to play this week. He wore a walking boot on the sideline at Washington.
“He’s doing everything he can to get back, man, getting extra treatment and everything he needs to do. … He’s getting better, day-by-day,” Brooks said. “Where he’s at right now is way better than when the injury occurred, on the field.”
Earlier, when the Eagles held a walkthrough in lieu of practice, defensive end Derek Barnett watched, wearing his jersey. Barnett might be the closest to returning, among the key injured Eagles. Wideout Nelson Agholor (knee) and Johnson were not on the field. Running back Jordan Howard (shoulder) was listed as a limited participant, as usual, as the Eagles estimated what players would have been able to do in an actual practice.