With offseason workout programs and mandatory minicamps in the books, veteran players all over the NFL are now enjoying their summer break. While this six-week window gives players an opportunity to get some rest before the start of training camp in late July, not all of them are necessarily on vacation.
Take a group of more than 40 tight ends who have gathered in Nashville this week to participate in the first ever “Tight End University.” The event was organized by San Francisco 49ers’ tight end George Kittle and his Kansas City Chiefs counterpart Travis Kelce together with longtime NFL tight end Greg Olsen and will also see the New England Patriots be well represented.
As was reported by Pats Pulpit’s own Keagan Stiefel last month, offseason additions Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry have also announced that they will be among the participants. Smith and Henry (or: Henry and Smith), are projected as the Patriots’ 1A and 1B at tight end this year after arriving in New England via multi-year free agency deals in March — helping upgrade a position group that was the least productive in the NFL last year.
Henry participated in voluntary organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, being among the most active offensive skill position players throughout the process. Smith was absent during the voluntary workout portion, but also unable to fully showcase his skills in minicamp: he appeared to have suffered a hamstring injury on Day 1 and was relegated to spectator status the next two days.
His status and participation will be watched closely heading into training camp, and during the “Tight End University” as well.
As noted above, more than 40 tight ends have announced their intention to visit (via Arrowhead Pride):
- Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, New England Patriots
- Travis Kelce and Blake Bell, Kansas City Chiefs
- George Kittle, Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner, San Francisco 49ers
- Mark Andrews and Eli Wolf, Baltimore Ravens
- Dominique Dafney, Marcedes Lewis and Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers
- Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson, Seattle Seahawks
- Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Alex Ellis and Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders
- Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith, New York Giants
- Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles
- Noah Fant, Denver Broncos
- Anthony Firkser, Tennessee Titans
- Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
- Chris Herndon and Chris Manhertz, New York Jets
- Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams
- T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions
- Austin Hooper and David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
- Hayden Hurst and Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
- Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears
- Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills
- Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys
- Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings
- Logan Thomas, Washington Football Team
- C.J. Uzomah, Cincinnati Bengals
- Ethan Wolf, New Orleans Saints
- Luke Stocker and Daniel Helm, Unrestricted free agents
“I’m always big on building a brotherhood. A lot of these guys either don’t know each other or never communicated with each other. It bothers me,” Kittle said, via Forbes.
“When one tight end succeeds, everybody succeeds — like the tight ends were making under $10 million a year. To me, that doesn’t make any sense. I feel like the tight end position hasn’t been appreciated.”
The Patriots have very much appreciated the position over the years, investing first-round picks in Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson in the early 2000s before hitting the jackpot with future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski in the second round in 2010. After Gronkowski’s departure following the 2018 season, however, the Patriots were unable to get consistent production out of the group — prompting them to bring Smith and Henry aboard in March.