When the Chiefs begin their OTA sessions on Monday at the Truman Sports Complex, there will not be a No. 88 running around on the field.
But Tony Gonzalez will be there.
He will be there in the form of No. 87, second-year tight end Brad Cottam.
Cottam would appear to be the guy who will step into the starting role in the Chiefs offense at tight end. He knows he can’t replace a 12-year, 10-time Pro Bowl veteran like Gonzalez and he won’t even try. If you want to read more about Cottam and stepping into the shoes of No. 88, then visit my story from kcchiefs.com right here.
But Cottam will bring a little bit of Tony G. to the field this year because of everything he learned from No. 88 last year.
“For a guy like me, all I had to do was watch him, watch how he did things, watch how he went about practice every day, watch how he always was doing something to get better,” Cottam said. “He outworks people.
“The best part was he was also willing to share things. If you asked questions, he would answer. There are certain little things and drills that I’ve seen him do that if I keep doing them, it’s going to help me tremendously.”
Now, don’t translate that into Cottam is going to become the type of receiver that Gonzalez was at tight end.
“We really play two different positions,” said Cottam. “I got to play a lot last year, but I was lining up at the tight end spot. Tony was out in the slot, lined up really as a wide receiver. He’s been catching 100 balls a year. I’m not going to be catching that many passes.”
Cottam is more of a traditional tight end than Gonzalez. But the tips he picked up along the way from No. 88 will be a big help for No. 87 when the time comes to catch the ball.
“He does the little things over and over,” Cottam said of Gonzalez. He’s always catching balls after practice, he’s always having somebody throw him passes in between the drills we are doing. I’m trying to make sure I do that now. Get on the jugs machine and take 50 to 100 balls after practice, spend a few extra minutes with the quarterbacks and catch some more balls. I’m just trying to do extra, the way he did.”
Just watching two parts of Gonzalez’s game – his feet and hands – provides plenty of learning opportunities for any young tight end.
“The biggest thing with him is his feet,” Cottam said. “He’s always doing these itty-bitty little steps, usually not even at full speed, but he always had his feet moving. Then you watch him in the games or practices when he runs a play and goes out for a pass, and you see that his feet were always moving. He didn’t stand still, he kept himself in motion.”
Gonzalez is gifted with big hands, but that doesn’t always mean a player can catch the ball. But his ability to make all the catches with his hands and not allow the ball to get to his body has always made him a favorite among quarterbacks. The receivers who catch the ball that way, don’t often see passes bounce off their pads and get picked off by a safety.
“We are always told that, to catch the ball in our hands, but he does it consistently, 100 percent of the time,” said Cottam. “I think it’s from all the extra passes he’s caught along the way. He does not drop it very often and when it happens, a big deal is made of it.”
Running routes is always something that takes a rookie time to learn in the NFL. But sometimes Gonzalez wasn’t the best example for young players to watch.
“I would ask last year and I would be told that this is how the route gets run, but check with Tony because he does it this way and he gets open,” Cottam said with a laugh. “What he has is great vision and he would get on the same page with the quarterback and find open spots in the defense and get the ball.
“We would run the same route and he would end up some place different than me, but it always worked out for him. He wouldn’t always be where he was supposed to be, but he would get the ball. That’s his vision.
“He’s not overly fast. He doesn’t always do everything the way it’s drawn up. But he’s so smooth in what he does and he produces. I’m going to try and copy as much as that as I can.”
Through the off-season strength and conditioning program there have been short sessions on the field with the Chiefs quarterbacks and receivers, so Cottam has gotten the chance to catch a few passes from new QB Matt Cassel.
“It doesn’t matter who or where you are, it’s going to take time to build the chemistry with a quarterback, so you can learn how he does things, how quickly the ball comes off his hands, how fast he makes his reads and decisions,” said Cottam. “It’s a process that we are going through. Right now, it’s huge to be out there doing those things and advancing the relationships.”
No. 88 is gone. But a piece of him lives on in Brad Cottam.
COLTS LOSE TWO IMPORTANT PIECES OF THEIR OFFENSIVE PUZZLE
Howard Mudd got into NFL coaching back in 1974 with the San Diego Chargers. Tom Moore entered t he NFL as an assistant coach in 1977 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Both Mudd and Moore had been coaching in the college ranks before finding the NFL, Mudd for two years, but Moore for 14 years.
Both men landed in Indianapolis in 1998 as part of Jim Mora’s coaching staff, Mudd handling the offensive line and Moore as offensive coordinator. They stayed with the Colts until Thursday, when both of them retired.
The reasons behind their retirements are unanswered, since neither man has talked about the situation publicly. But part of the problem appears to be changes in the NFL’s pension plan that have caused ripples throughout the pro coaching world since March. That’s when owners voted to allow teams to pull out of the NFL pension plan if they choose.
There are questions about the access to a lump sum retirement payment after this time because of the changes to the plan.
Mudd and Moore were big factors in all the offensive success the Colts have enjoyed with QB Peyton Manning.
Mudd spent four years as the offensive line coach of the Chiefs (1989-92).
MCBRIDE EARNS A SPOT IN JERSEY HALL OF FAME
Chiefs defensive end-outside linebacker Turk McBride will be inducted next month into the South Jersey Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
A two-time Philadelphia Inquirer South Jersey defensive player of the year from Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden, McBride is among six inductees.
McBride was a four-year starter at receiver and at two-year starter at defensive end. In his junior-senior seasons, he had 127 tackles, 29 sacks, 7 recovered fumbles, 4 blocked field goals and 4 blocked punts.
The inductees will be honored on June 24.
DONNELL BENNETT IS HIGH SCHOOL HEAD COACH IN MIAMI
Former Chiefs running back Donnell Bennett has gotten into the coaching ranks and was named recently the head coach at Miami’s Northeast High School.
”I have always loved to teach and help to mold character,” Bennett told the Miami Herald. “I just wanted to give back a little of what was given to me by my father and those who were instrumental in my life and career.”
Over the last few years, Bennett has been working as an assistant coach at his alma mater in Ft. Lauderdale, Cardinal Gibbons. When he was offered the chance to take over the program of one of Gibbons rivals, he never hesitated.
”What the move was about and still is was to help teach the young men we have on this team to do things the right way,” Bennett said. “We wanted to help develop positive skills and work habits and teach them that nothing comes without making sacrifices and plenty of hard work.’”
Here’s the story from the Herald.
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
BILLS - RB Marshawn Lynch has filed an appeal over his three-game suspsension from the NFL.
49ERS – signed fifth-round draft choice LB Scott McKillops and seventh-round pick DL Ricky Jean-Francois. There are the second and third 2009 NFL Draft picks signed, after No. 1 choice QB Matt Stafford in Detroit.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born n May 15, 1986 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina was current Chiefs OT Barry Richardson. He was selected in the sixth-round of the 2008 NFL Draft out of Clemson. He got only minimal playing time in his rookie season.
Born on May 15, 1965 in Vincennes, Indiana was P Dan Stryzinski. He spent 14 seasons punting in the NFL, including two seasons (2001-02) with the Chiefs. He kicked in 32 games, averaging 39.4 yards on 137 punts.