Our Ron Lippock spoke with former Steelers long snapper Greg Warren about what he’s doing now, memories of the Steelers and more.
First, can you let me know what you’ve been doing with yourself since you retired?
Well, I’m helping now with a physical therapy clinic with my brother-in-law. He is a physical therapist and bought out the practice he was in. Even seven years into my playing career I was looking to see what I could do when I retired. I was in the league long enough to know it was above average and that I needed to prepare myself for life after football.
I was looking at investment ideas when my brother-in-law bought out the practice. He and I took over the business. I helped out in my spare time while I was playing, then when I retired I started working abut a half-day every day remotely, here from Pittsburgh. But next Spring I’ll be moving to North Carolina where the clinic is permanently.
How hard was the post-NFL adjustment for you?
It was tough – tougher than I expected, to be honest. I was glad I had something at least to keep me busy. I never thought I’d miss it as much as I did. I look back now and reflect on how great that experience was and how blessed I am to have been a part of it.
I still feel at times like I’m supposed to be there, with my friends. I helped the team be a part of something. It’s difficult now sitting back and watching them play – not even on the sidelines.
Why choose Pittsburgh as an undrafted free agent – especially when they had Mike Schneck there?
It was a couple of factors. The biggest one was they were the only ones that called me with an offer! The call came within five minutes after the draft was over. My agent told me and I wanted to go – absolutely.
One factor that helped me to feel comfortable was that I snapped the ball for Jeff Reed in North Carolina. That gave me some comfort to snap to someone I knew on a continuous basis.
I never heard from Pittsburgh until they called. I had some interest from the Patriots and Packers and thought one of them might call me. But oddly, neither did. When Pittsburgh called I didn’t waste any time and wait round. I jumped on that first offer. You know, a bird in the hand.
Did Mike or anyone else help mentor you there?
They mentored the best they could. You want to be a mentor but at the same time the position is unique. Teams only keep one long snapper. In the offseason it’s fine to have us both there but you know once the season starts only one will be there. In the offseason nothing happens – the money and credit doesn’t come until the regular season.
Mike was a great guy. He didn’t do anything I would hold against him. It’s not like he put his arms around my shoulders and asked how he could help me do better too. It’s a cutthroat business. If you can perform as well, then the younger and cheaper player is the guy they keep. And I was younger and cheaper. I don’t discount that as a reason they kept me instead of Mike. I won’t say I was better but I was younger and cheaper.
Every year as I got older the team would bring guys in, but I didn’t tell them all of my tricks. I filmed some and helped them, but not as a mentor – just to help. It’s hard to teach guys that want to put you on the street.
But you lasted there twelve years.
I guess they couldn’t find anyone younger and cheaper! I also think my personality helped. I got along well with everyone and didn’t rock the boat. I got in line and helped and was committed to being a long snapper. I wasn’t the fastest snapper but I was consistent. I realized the longer I was in the league that the faster, stronger snappers didn’t last as long in the league. Tomlin told me that as long as I was accurate, consistent and could block, I was his guy. That held true there until the injury that made me unable to play.
Any funny stories of your time there? I understand that you may have been involved in the Jeff Reed bus trick?
Ha – I didn’t know about it. Jeff and I worked together and were good friends, but that was a Jeff-only thing, calling the buses during camp. I was too young to try that and get in trouble, but Jeff was a savvy vet and could afford to do something like that.
When the buses rolled up during camp, we all knew that meant to go take a quick shower and see movies. On those grueling days of camp they were great breaks from those days. So it was pretty cool to get those breaks, Players got excited when they saw those buses roll up, but when Tomlin told everyone it wasn’t happening, they all realized it was a trick and looked at Jeff pretty quickly. They knew it was him. They were all disheartened for a good 10 minutes.
Any other memories you appreciate most of your time there?
What I think of most is when Shaun Suisham and I used to go to the top lot near the dorms at Latrobe during training camp before curfew and play cards. Guys would pass through – Ben, Keisel, Harrison would come up and we’d all sit around and talk and tell stories and relaxed together before the next day kicked in. It’s stuff like that that I hold on to. Spending time with the guys and talking about things non-football.
On the field, the biggest story I remember was during my rookie year. We were playing Baltimore at Heinz Field and I was running down on a punt. The receiver caught the ball and he did kind of a little lateral run to the sideline. I did the same thing and was facing the sideline, and got within what seemed like inches of tackling him when I felt like I got hit by a truck. I was laying on my back staring at the sky and I couldn’t breathe. It felt like for minutes, though it was probably for seconds. I seriously couldn’t breathe and I thought, this is it, this is how it ends, with me as a rookie dying on the field. The trainer sat with me and helped me relax, then Jerame Tuman came over. Jerame was the emergency snapper and he didn’t like doing it. He asked me if I was ok and I thought he was concerned about me! It turned out he was just worried he was going to have to snap for the rest of the game. Fortunately I was ok and snapped again.
The next day when I watched film of the play I saw what happened. Bart Scott had come up the sideline and planted his facemask on my chest. It was my welcome to the NFL moment. I wonder if he even remember the hit.
You hear about how much extra time special teams guys have in practice. Is that true, and how did you use that time?
In the beginning – the first couple of years I had a lot of downtime. You do warmups and really one-to-two 10 minute practice periods, and outside of that there was a lot of downtime. My fourth year Tomlin came up to me and asked me what else I could do extra. I didn’t know what I could do but told him in college I offered to be the backup tight end if they needed someone to help with reps, but they never did it because they were worried about me getting injured. But I did help with seven-on-sevens. They used offensive linemen to do the snapping, but it was a waste and took them away from their drills. So I was able to help there. It gave me another way to show importance to the team.
You’ve seen the way the game has changed. How has it affected the long-snapper position?
Even before the changes I would hear from retired players how the game wasn’t as tough as the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.
For long snappers, it used to be that guys could line up right across from you and hit you as soon as the ball was moved. Now they have to line up to the side. We’re playing with our heads down between our legs, so that extra second helps a bit. The rules have helped long snappers better protect themselves.
The rules not allowing players to jump over the long snappers unless they clear them completely have also helped. I had so many guys fall on me after I snapped the ball. When we played Green Bay and tied the game on that last play, and were kicking the extra point to win the game, a guy jumped over the right guard and they both fell on my right knee and tore my ACL. So rules like that helped a lot.
Lastly, how is your health now?
My health is fair. Both of my ACLs were torn when I played and have been repaired, but I’m getting arthritis in both of those and in my back. I’m sure most players have similar issues
The injury that put me out of the game was the one versus the Patriots in 2016. It was a head injury and an issue with the artery behind my eye. I didn’t have any serious complications but it put me at big risk. I told myself that if I ever was in a position where it looked like my body would be at risk of permanent harm I would walk away. Management felt the same way. I looked and seemed fine but they didn’t want to risk my health. So I retired.
No effects from injuries hinder my day-to-day, I walked away before that could happen. But it would have been a big risk if I played.