KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Rain on game day would have caused long snapper James Winchester panic as a rookie five years ago, especially heavy rain that might greet the Chiefs and Jaguars during their meeting at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
“Oh my gosh, what do I do? You're scrambling,” Winchester said when asked about dealing with a wet football on special teams. “Now you have the confidence if it rains, it doesn't matter, you can take care of it.”
Preparing for inclement weather on game day means getting practice time in the wind and the rain, according to special teams coordinator Dave Toub. The Chiefs took advantage of two rainy days during training camp in St. Joseph to do punt and field goal drills, including the final practice in St. Joseph when a deluge dumped several inches of raining during practice.
“We like windy days, we like rainy days in practice so we can go back and have that under your belt and fall back on that as far as experience,” Toub said. “And we have experienced guys too, so we've been there before.”
Toub crossed his fingers it might rain during practice on Thursday to get another tune up before Sunday.
“We have a thing we call the wet-ball drill where we wet the ball down and snap it,” Toub said. “We'll work on that today. We were thinking it was going to rain today but it doesn't seem like it's going to now, so we'll have to do our setup wet-ball drill.”
The wet-ball drill is exactly what it sounds like. If Mother Nature doesn't make it rain, assistant special teams coach Rod Wilson takes care of it.
“We'll go out, basically Rod will stand there and squirt water on the ball,” Winchester said. “It's really up to him how hard it's raining. Sometimes he's like and he's pouring like a bucket on it and we just work, just snap.”
Officials bring in a fresh ball on special teams plays, so usually kicker Harrison Butker doesn't practiced with a water logged ball. But Winchester and Colquitt work to make sure the snap and hold remain perfect.
“Dustin and I will kind of work with the worst of the worst,” Winchester said. “It can only go up from there. If it rains a little bit, you're good, if it rains a lot you're good.”
Winchester uses a modified grip when the ball gets wet and becomes slippery.
“Squeeze it too tight, you just can't get a good spiral,” Winchester explained. “You kind of have to relax your hands surprisingly enough, you wouldn't think that in water.”
The long snapper knows that neither Toub or head coach Andy Reid – or especially fans – will tolerate a bad snap just because of the weather.
“Obviously it's our job to go out and perform and do it, and it's still ahead of us but you feel confident going in you can take care of the job and get it done,” Winchester said. “And that's why we practice during the week just as a reminder, get a little practice with a well ball and we can roll on Sunday.”