Quickness to a center is like speed to a wide receiver or a strong arm to a quarterback - it is essential.
Quickness as much as anything is the reason Bob Kuziel is the Washington Redskins' center and Len Hauss is not.
"I think quickness is the most important asset a center needs," the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Kuziel said. "The quicker you get off the ball, the better position you are going to get into to make your blocks. It's that simple."
"The center has to be a special kind of guy," said Ray Callahan, Redskin offensive line coach "and having to snap the ball puts him at a definite disadvantage compared to the other linemen."
Against a standard 4-3 defense, the center does not have a man directly in front of him on the line and he often is trying to block a linebacker.
Against the 34 defenses, like the one used by the Redskins' Sunday opponent, the New England Patriots, there is a defensive lineman lined up nose - to - nose with the offensive cnter. The Patriots alternate Raymond (Sugar Bear) Hamilton and Richard Bishop at the position.
Hamilton weighs 245 and Bishop 260.
"The key to handling a nose man is having quickness plus strength," Callahan said, "and it looks like the day of the center being uncovered is pratically gone.
"There are different techniques they have to accomplish in addition to the old ones in order to handle a nose man. I'm not saying Lenny (Hauss) wasn't great, but Bob does these things well.
"He made himself stronger in the offseason and he is quick and aggressive and has the right temperament to be a center. He's a good player."
It did not come as a complete surprise to Kuziel when the veteran Hauss, who had played in 196 straight Redskin games, was cut Monday.
Kuziel said he sensed something the first time he talked to Jack Pardee soon after Pardee was made Redskins' coach.
"He told me from the very beginning that there would be an opportunity for everybody to earn a starting spot this year," Kuziel said. "He (Pardee) said no jobs were locked up, not just at center but at every position.
"I didn't do anything different in the off-season in terms of physical training," Kuziel said. "Mentally there was a difference, though. I had to start thinking in terms of getting myself ready to be a starter."
Now that he is a starter, in addition to going up against one of the best defenses in the league in the first game, Kuziel knows he will be compared with Hauss.
"There will certainly be some pressure to perform as well as Lenny did in the past," Kuziel added. "I hope I can. Now it's a matter of keeping the job."
And Kuziel knows about being hurt. From the University of Pittsburgh, Kuziel was drafted by the New Orleans Saints on the third round in 1972. He injured his knee after one game and then ruptured a disk in his back while rehabilitating the knee.
No NFL team would take a chance on him because of his back, so he did not play in 1973 and went to the World Football League in 1974.
After he signed with the Redskins as a free agent last year, it became apparent very quickly that he was going to be their center of the future.
"I think center is the most difficult position on the line because you have to do so many more things with your body than the other positions, and you have to snap the ball before you do them," Kuziel said.
"Now, playing against the 34 defense, it is even tougher because teams are putting their best lineman right on top of you.
"We're using a slightly different technique this year," Kuziel added. "It calls for a little more aggressiveness. We are also taking more advantage of angles than we did last year."
Guard Dan Nugent, who lines up next to Kuziel on the offensive line, said Kuziel "does a good job of adjusting to having a man right in front of him and to having a linebacker playing three years off.
"Entirely different techniques are used to block men in those situations, and Bobby adapts real well to both situations. Quickness and recognition are the most important things.
"The 34 is a terrific defense," Nugent added. "You have to chase some people awhile sometimes before you can block them. Taking the right angles is the key - and then being quick enough to get there."