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Snap to it: Falcons rookie James Stone has no problem switching hands

Some might consider James Stone a bit of a freak because of one unusual habit, but the Atlanta Falcons center views it as second nature now.

The undrafted rookie free agent from Tennessee, who became the starter following season-ending ACL tears for Joe Hawley and Peter Konz, uses his left hand to shotgun snap and his right hand to snap when the quarterback is under center.

"All quarterbacks like to get their under-center right-handed, and it's just more comfortable for me to do the gun with my left hand because I'm left-handed," Stone said. "I've been doing it that way since college."

Falcons offensive line Mike Tice, in his 18th year as a coach, said he has never witnessed a center change hands in such a manner.

"When I was playing in Seattle, we had a center, John Yarno, who was a left-handed center, but it really didn't matter because Jim Zorn was a left-handed quarterback," Tice said. "I've seen some left-handed centers over the years, and none of them really panned out.

"We had a rookie center in here for a local workout who was a left-handed center. And I said, `Hey, if you want to be able to make it, you've got to snap right-handed.' And he said, 'Well, I can't do that.' And I said, 'That's funny. I just came from Tennessee, and there's a kid at Tennessee named James Stone who deep-snaps left-handed, and he changes the ball to his right hand when he snaps under center.' And he said, 'No way.' And I said, 'Yeah way.'"

Even other centers around the league were surprised by Stone's unique ability.

"That's the strangest thing I've ever heard," Packers center Corey Linsley said. "That is really weird. ... He must be ambidextrous. That's pretty impressive."

There is an interesting backstory to why Stone started switching hands in the first place. It was a suggestion made by his former Tennessee offensive line coach Sam Pittman, a respected college assistant who has had eight linemen drafted in the past two years. Pittman spent one season tutoring Stone in 2012.

"The year before I got in there, James had lost his starting position because he couldn't shotgun with his right hand," Pittman explained. "So we looked up the rule, and basically the rule is if you're going to switch hands, you've got to put both hands on the ball. And so we allowed him to snap with his dominant hand. We changed up some ways he was gripping the ball and the way he was turning the ball. And he went from not be able to start at center to one heck of a football player.

"It really didn't have anything to do with me, except that I knew he was a really good player. We had moved him to guard, and I just thought he was so valuable at center."

Stone has not tinkered his style one bit since joining the Falcons.

"Nah, because I've been doing it so long," he said. "You've got to know if the quarterback is under center or not, and the quarterback does a good job of tapping me and letting me know. I can switch hands on the ball as long as I have one hand always touching the ball."

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was asked if there have been any challenges getting accustomed to Stone switching hands.

"I don't even notice it," Ryan said. "Under center, he snaps it with his right hand, the same way that I've always gotten it my entire career. And in the gun, it doesn't make much of a difference."

Tice rarely notices it himself.

"If you didn't know and you're watching the game, you'd never know," Tice said. "It's very subtle. He does a nice job with it. That's a tribute to him. He's a very intelligent player. So being as smart as he is -- he's very smart -- he's able to do that with poise and not turn into hyperventilating and saying, 'Oh [shoot], I've got to change hands.' He does a great job."

Packers reporter Rob Demovsky contributed to this story.