Following the close of the offseason program, players may be on break for summer, but a number of tight ends across the NFL are hard at work perfecting their craft this week.
Wednesday kicked off the first annual Tight End University (TEU) held in Nashville, Tenn. San Francisco tight end George Kittle teamed up with Kansas City Chiefs Travis Kelce and former Carolina Panthers Greg Olsen to help unite tight ends from around the league in a three-day affair.
The summit is set to focus on technique, film study, on-field drills, rehab and recovery. While making his media rounds this week, Kittle said the objective of TEU is to elevate the skill of the position beyond the practice field and to learn successful traits from each of the playmakers in attendance.
"My goal is to bring all these guys together," Kittle said. "Tight end is a position where you have to run block, pass pro, run routes, catch the ball, run routes on DB's, you have to get to the second level on linebackers, run routes against safeties – like, you kind of have to do everything. So why not bring all the world's best to one location and then learn from each other."
The idea of TEU stemmed from some of the positional summits that already occur across the league. Notably, Denver Broncos edge rusher Von Miller heads an annual pass rush summit where veteran and young players can continue to refine their techniques with other prominent playmakers. The same goes for Philadelphia Eagles tackle Lane Johnson who hosts the Masterminds Summit for nearly 50 current NFL offensive linemen.
In TEU's first year of existence, more than 40 NFL tight ends are taking part. Players in attendance range from highly touted first-year tight end Kyle Pitts to 17-year NFL veteran Marcedes Lewis. Even fellow 49ers tight ends Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner have descended upon Nashville for the event.
Regarded as one of the top tight ends in the league, Kittle had no concern about losing a competitive advantage when organizing the summit. Instead, he believes the enhanced play across the league will only benefit the "do-it-all" position in the long run.
"When one tight end succeeds, when we're all succeeding, then everyone gets to benefit off of each other, whether that's from guys playing well and getting contracts so the tight end position gets paid more," Kittle said. "I feel like the tight end does a lot. You look at the last 10 Super Bowls, I think every team that's won has had a dominant, very talented tight end. It has to do with winning Super Bowls. I think that's the most important thing. So, you might as well pay the tight ends. I just kind of want that number to keep going up."
The event kicked off with a welcome reception on Wednesday. On Thursday, the focus shifts to training and drills before culminating with a youth football camp. With the event's sponsors, the target is to also help raise money to donate to the summit's local and national charities.
The list of attendees also includes Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, Zach Ertz, Evan Engram, Noah Fant, Austin Hooper, Kyle Rudolph, Cole Kmet, Mike Gesicki, Jonnu Smith, Logan Thomas, Marcedes Lewis, Tyler Higbee, Eric Ebron, Kyle Pitts, Dallas Goedert, David Njoku, Kaden Smith, Irv Smith Jr, Hunter Henry, Chris Herndon, Hayden Hurst, Dalton Schultz, Chris Manhertz, Colby Parkinson, Blake Bell, Ross Dwelley, Dominique Dafney, Robert Tonyan, T.J. Hockenson, Charlie Woerner, Daniel Helm, Dawson Knox, Will Dissly, Luke Stocker, C.J. Uzomah, Alex Ellis, Eli Wolf, Ethan Wolf and Anthony Firkser.