Leo's Late Hits: Vibes From Valero

August 26 - Pewter Report managing editor Leo Haggerty had an exclusive session with new Bucs tight end coach Art Valero. The tight ends are the most diverse group on the football team in that they have to be part blocker as well as part pass catcher. See how Valero views the role of his troops in the newly installed Gulf Shore offensive attack.

Q: What were the strengths that you saw in the tight end position when you came to Tampa Bay?

A: When I first got here the Dave Moore situation was still up in the air so that left Mike Roberg and Todd Yoder as the only ones here. Coach Jon Gruden and the front office people went out to get the people we needed to get to fit this system. The great thing about the five guys that are working now is that they are all doing a super job. They bought into this system of football and they are getting better.

Q: Are you going to have to cut a couple of pretty good players when it's all said and done?

A: Unfortunately, that's the way things work in the National Football League. The great thing is that competition is always going to make everybody better. We have so much competition at the tight end position right now. They are a great group of people that want to buy in as well as work hard at everything we do. Hopefully, we can get some people on film and some other teams will be interested in picking those people up. We would love to keep all five but that may not be feasible.

Q: How important is size in the short to intermediate passing game of the Gulf Shore offense?

A: I think size is important as a tight end, period. You are kind of a hybrid in that you're 75 per cent offensive lineman and you're 25 per cent wide receiver. Yet, when you run the routes we ask our tight ends to run, you have to be skilled enough to be able to run them. With as much stuff as we do in the passing game the big targets at tight end are very important.

Q: Is it true that the tight end is almost the first option in all of the play action pass plays? A: I all just depends on what route Jon calls. The one thing that I can say for sure is that this offense is very tight end friendly. It's up to the individual who is playing tight end in that particular game to determine how friendly it can be. It may look like the tight end is the first option but some guys are just busting it. It depends on the coverage you're getting and the wide outs that you have. Now, having the wide receivers that we do, when defenses start paying more attention to them we are going to come open even more.

Q: Is there going to be times when there are three tight ends in the game at one time?

A: It's possible in short yardage situations but, in the middle of the field, that remains to be seen. As far as a game plan or an on the field adjustment during a game, I think it's a little premature to think about that possibility.

Q: Do you pinch yourself before practice when you see Ken Dilger and Marco Battaglia walking out to the practice field?

A: Jon has done a great job of not setting me up for failure. If they screw up it will be my fault for sure.

Q: What's the first thing that you said to your tight end when the arrived at Wide World of Sports for training camp?

A: The first thing I stressed to them was that we were going to be an asset to this football program and not a liability. Because we are the hybrid position we have to be able to both block and catch the football in the passing game. We are in a position to compete with the running backs for playing time. We want to make sure that when there is two tight ends in the game that doesn't automatically mean that there are two backs in the game as well. We want to make sure that we play in the game. We don't want those formations with four wide out and three wide outs along with two backs to be the primary game plan. We want to make sure that we are involved in the game. No, we want to make sure that we are heavily involved in the game.

Q: Is it harder for a rookie like Tracy Wistrom to learn the play book that we are hearing is the size of a big city phone book?

A: The great thing about Tracy is that he's a very bright individual. He's one of those Nebraska guys where that N on their helmet didn't stand for knowledge. He's a very smart guy and he's grasped the system very well. He's spent a lot of extra time in the summer learning terminology and learning route adjustments along with a bunch of other things that the tight end has to know to play in this system. Tracy has a very good future in this game.

Q: Is the main focus of the tight end going to be a blocker or a pass receiver or is it somebody that can do both pretty well?

A: He's definitely going to have to be able to do both. The one thing that you have to be able to do in the National Football League is run the football. In order to do that we have to have a mindset that we can run the football so I expect our tight ends to be drive blockers. They are also going to have to be pass protectors as well and we have to show up as route runners too. But, first and foremost, running the ball in the NFL is how you win on a consistent basis.

Q: Do we expect to see the tight end line up as a fullback at some time during the regular season?

A: I think it would all depend on what our game plan is for that particular week. The game plan that Jon will put together could be anything. Nothing would surprise me when it comes to where the tight ends will line up from week to week. We are like chameleons in that we will blend in wherever we line up. The big thing is that we are in the game plan in some shape or form. Just get us on the field so we can perform.

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