The San Francisco 49ers have no shortage of tight ends.
Eight, to be exact, fill the position room.
"We've got a lot of chairs in there," tight ends coach Tony Sparano said last Thursday during a post-minicamp media session.
One of those seats is filled by decade-long 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. After a flurry of offseason changes, Davis now finds himself as the longest tenured player on the roster.
"It makes me feel really, really young," Davis jokingly told reporters last week. "It's a blessing to be able to stay around this long. I look at all the other guys that I came in with, they're all gone, and I'm still standing. Hopefully I continue to be here, but I'm taking it one day at a time."
Since being drafted sixth overall by the 49ers in 2006, Davis has accumulated 423 receptions for 5,446 receiving yards and 55 touchdowns. All of those numbers are franchise records.
But Davis is coming off of an atypical season by his own standards – 26 receptions and two touchdowns. The desire for a bounce-back year statistically combined with his responsibilities as a team leader made Davis a full participant of the 49ers entire offseason program.
The tight end's dedication instantly earned the admiration of Sparano, despite only working together for just a few months.
"I think for Vernon being here, it shows the kind of commitment he's making to the football team and this organization right now. ... As I've told him, I respect the fact that he's given me the opportunity to come in and coach him.
"What I've seen is an eager guy getting better every day on the practice field. When you have the ability to be as dynamic as Vernon has, to go out there and get better the way he has, those are really positive signs."
Sparano joins San Francisco's coaching staff after spending the last two seasons with the Oakland Raiders, serving as the team's offensive line coach, assistant head coach and interim head coach. Sparano was previously the head coach of the Miami Dolphins for three seasons from 2008-11.
Davis' approach to the offseason has made Sparano's transition to his new team an easy one. Sparano explained that it get's him excited to see a veteran player match his enthusiasm and passion as a coach.
It's not just Davis though. All seven other tight ends – Busta Anderson, Blake Bell, Derek Carrier, Garrett Celek, Asante Cleveland, Xavier Grimble and Garrett Celek – have shown the same level of dedication and work ethic as they compete for the wide-open depth chart spots behind Davis.
"I feel like it was a great offseason program," Sparano said. "Obviously we had everyone here, everyone was present. We got a lot of work done learning new systems; players learning coaches and coaches learning players. The guys we've got in the room are outstanding. They're all great learners and good people.
"It's been really good to come in here every single day and feel at ease coaching guys who are hungry to get better."