NFL

Rookie long-snapper surprised he beat out veteran

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP)

During rookie initiations late last week, Lonie Paxton took the shears to fellow long-snapper Aaron Brewer's long blonde locks, leaving him with a military style buzz cut.

The unkindest cut came this week when Paxton, a 12-year veteran and three-time Super Bowl champ, was beaten out by Brewer, a 6-foot-5 undrafted rookie, and released by the Denver Broncos.

That was a head-turner, even to Brewer.

''I was pretty surprised,'' Brewer acknowledged Tuesday. ''He was in the league for 12 years. You never know when you're going to get the opportunity. Now I have it and I'll make the most of it.''

Brewer has been perfect on 18 snaps in the preseason and he displayed the hustle and athleticism that allowed him to record 15 special teams tackles at San Diego State, including a-half dozen as a senior last year.

That's one more than Paxton had in three seasons in Denver after former coach Josh McDaniels brought him along from New England in 2009 and signed him to a five-year, $5.53 million deal to replace the popular Mike Leach.

By releasing Paxton, the Broncos (No. 10 in the AP Pro32) saved nearly $1.3 million in salary cap space. Paxton was due the veteran's minimum of $925,000 this season. Brewer will make $390,000.

Coach John Fox called Brewer ''an exceptional athlete.''

Brewer, who was planning to return to school to finish up work on his degree if this gig didn't work out, knows his coverage skills helped him beat long odds to win the Broncos' long-snapper job.

''It's a big deal to me. Of course, I want to have a great snap, but I'm an athlete, I like to play football,'' Brewer said. ''I like to run down and mix things up, so it's not the most important thing for a long-snapper, but it kind of just adds to it.''

Brewer said he appreciated Paxton's advice over the last few months. He said he also doesn't hold a grudge for the haircut. He said they put it in ponytails and sent it off to a children's cancer charity.

''I like it now,'' Brewer said. ''It's easier to keep up.''

Some of Brewer's teammates razzed him as reporters gathered around him for his first mass interview. Long snappers don't usually get this kind of attention regardless of whether they're a rookie or a veteran, unless they miss a big snap that costs their team a victory.

''Yeah, exactly,'' Brewer said. ''I hope I never have to do this again.''

Notes: CB Omar Bolden returned from a sprained left knee he hurt Sunday against San Francisco, and LB Keith Brooking practiced for the first time since straining his left hamstring Aug. 13. ... LB Mike Mohamed returned from a pulled hamstring and T Tony Hillis (neck) sat out.

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Tagged: Broncos, Lonie Paxton, Aaron Brewer

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