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Tony Gonzalez sprinting down the field after a reception.
Leon Halip/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Talented tight ends are some of the most remarkable athletes in sports. As the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) states, tight ends are "almost as large as offensive tackles, yet nearly as fast as many flankers." Tight ends must block massive defensive linemen and swift linebackers and sprint off the line and run precise pass routes. There are a number of drills that will help you improve your speed and quickness.
Tight ends split their practice time between strength workouts with massive linemen and skill workouts with the fleet running backs and receivers. As STACK explains, you can build your conditioning and your speed with shuttle drills, all-out sprints at distances ranging from 40 yards to 300 yards. Quick bursts of speed are essential for a tight end, since you run many more short routes than deep downfield routes.
Quick-Foot Movement Drills
An article in STACK claims that most receivers don't adequately train for the break point of the route. STACK offers a number of drills for improving foot speed and coming out of your break more explosively, thereby enabling you to lose the defender covering you. The drills include ladders, which require you to quickly move your feet in different directions, and a diamond drill that is specifically designed to improve your speed in and out of breaks by increasing your ability to change direction sharply and quickly. As the Get2The League site notes, your speed on the field is paramount. "A player's speed in the 40 doesn't really tell you how fast he is in a game," said legendary coach Bill Walsh.
Tight End Four-In-One
Designed to improve all phases of route running by tight ends, this drill from the AFCA focuses on a number of actual game techniques you'll use to get open, catch the ball and continue upfield. It uses three bags to simulate defensive players, one at the line of scrimmage, a second 10 yards downfield and the third set 5 yards further downfield and at an angle. You release from the line of scrimmage, make a sharp break, catch the pass from the quarterback, simulate a fake on the cornerback and continue upfield.
The combination of speed and strength a top tight end possesses is rare in sports. For example, perennial Pro Bowl selection Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons checks in at 6 foot, 5 inches and 247 pounds. In his first 16 years in the league, he missed only one game with injuries. Citing other star tight ends such as Russ Francis and Kellen Winslow, AFCA says the ability to mix it up with linemen and run away from -- or run over -- defenders in the secondary "typically gives tight ends a toughness that's hard to match."