The longshot to make the team right now looks to be the newcomer, sixth round pick out of UCLA Bryan Fletcher. The rookie, considered to be more of a pass catching tight end caught only 11 passes for 189 yards and one touchdown, in his senior season starting in 10 of the 11 games. The year before, Fletcher pulled in 10 receptions for 144 yards with two touchdowns.
At 6-5 and 235 pounds, Fletcher is an undersized blocker, but he insists he will be able to pass block as well as catch passes.
"I feel that when the time comes, I will be a well rounded tight end, as far as blocking and receiving," Fletcher said.
Whether or not Fletcher can produce on the field, he realizes that his contributions on special teams can make or break his chance of making the 53-man roster. In an era of football with increased importance on special teams coverage, NFL teams typically will choose a backup who is more versatile, one who will work hard and produce on special teams. In fact, the Bears back-up safety, Larry Whigham made only one tackle on defense last year, but earned a spot on the NFC Pro-Bowl team for his excellent work on special teams.
For years in Buffalo, back-up wide receiver and special teams specialist Steve Tasker dominated the field on special teams. Tasker was selected to seven Pro-Bowl appearances in his 11-year career in Buffalo, all for his work on special teams. His play has inspired NFL youngsters to work hard and appreciate special teams; Bryan Fletcher seems to value these same ideas.
"I think special teams is very important, that's why I have been working my hardest," Fletcher said.
Despite the importance of special teams, head coach Dick Jauron and the rest of the coaching staff still wants to increase production at that position.
" We are confident we have strengthened the position (speaking of Broughton and Fletcher at TE)," said Jauron. "The tight ends have always been involved (in the offense), the numbers have not been where they would like them, or where we would like them," Jauron added.