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The Red Snapper Has A New Number

Long snapper Ethan Albright hasn't missed a game in 10 years and hasn't blown a snap in his NFL career. So when I noticed that he's no longer wearing No, 71 this season - he's donning 67 now - I did a double take. Having spendt my adult life essentially around pro athletes of one type or another, and observing all their quirks and superstitions, this one stunned me.

Todd Wade, who was around last season but came in late as a reserve guy but has first dibs to win the starting left guard spot, is now wearing 71. So I confronted Albright about this business yesterday. He dubbed the matter a "private barter transaction," and said that the number 71 was significant to Wade, so he parted with it with little fanfare. Wade will owe him a little somethin' somethin' but no cash changed hands.

"We're talking about linemen here," Ethan (nicknamed the red snapper as any red-haired long snapper naturally would be. "You're not going to see $40,000 changing hands over a number with us. That's not how we roll."

Okay, I made up the last sentence in that quote. Ethan never said, "That's not how we roll." But damn, he should have, right?

Anyway, Ethan was making light of the fiasco between Clinton Portis and Ifeanyi Ohalete (how many of you thought I would actually spell that name correctly?) three years back, when Portis entered into a complex contract with the DB for use of No. 26 that included 40-Gs, beer, use of a penthouse and all kinds of weird stuff. Then like a week letter Ohalete was cut, Dolla Bill didn't want to pay him and it took the American justice system to sort it all out.

Ethan said it was no sweat to switch numbers. He's worn 67 in the past and puts no stock in the import of the digits on the back of the jersey.

"As long as they're still giving me a number, I'm happy," he said.

By Jason La Canfora  |  June 16, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
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