Q&A: With TEs Coach John Tice

With the increased use of the tight end in the passing game, John Tice talked to VU about his thoughts on the position so far this year.

John Tice is in his second season as tight ends coach of the Vikings after spending a year as an unpaid offensive assistant in 1999. But that doesn't mean he entered the NFL coaching scene without experience at the tight end position.

Tice played tight end for the New Orleans Saints for 10 years after being drafted in the first round in 1983. He caught a career-high 37 passes for 330 yards in 1986, his best season in the NFL. A shoulder injury sidelined his career in 1992 and he spent a handful of years away from the pro game as an insurance salesman; however, he did coach high school and youth football during that time.

John's older brother, Mike, the offensive line coach and assistant head coach, has been a Vikings coach since 1996 and also had a 14-year career as an NFL tight end. They are the first team of brothers to ever coach with the Vikings.

Q: How pleased have you been with the performance of the tight ends?
A: So far the guys are doing well. Byron Chamberlain has come in and done everything we expected him to do. He has added a little bit more dimension to the passing game and he's a strong blocker and is doing well there. Andrew Jordan is doing a good job, as far as what we have asked him to do, backing up Byron and being our second tight end in our tiger situation. Matt Cercone is working hard. He was just activated. He's contributing and doing a good job also.

Q: Has Chamberlain exceeded expectations, as far as coming into a new system and grasping it quickly?
A: We had high hopes for Byron and what he could add to the team. A credit to him is that he has come in and worked hard. He spent a lot of time in the offseason getting familiar with the system and getting familiar personally with the players. I think the main thing he has done is, he has earned the confidence of Daunte (Culpepper). Daunte knows he can look to him and he'll be open. If he throws him the ball he's going to catch it. I think we are pleased that has evolved and that's something you can't count on. But he has taken it upon himself to work his way in both professionally and personally with the guys. It has worked out well.

Q: What does it add to have a guy such as Chamberlain, who has such good hands?
A: It adds a lot because we see a lot of double coverages on Randy (Moss) and Cris (Carter) on the outside. This gives Byron an opportunity to work the middle and gives Daunte confidence that somebody is going to be open in the middle of the field. If they are double covered and can't get open on the outside, he can look down into the middle or a crossing route underneath and Byron will be there. He will be open and he will catch the ball.

Q: Was finding a top-notch pass-catching tight end a key during the offseason?
A: No question about it. We are so strong on the outside and you don't want to have that weak link in the middle or on the under routes or even the deep routes. Byron can get deep and split in the middle and going down the middle and holding the safeties off the outside. Holding the safeties off from Randy on the deep routes. That has worked out well.

Q: Does this allow Jordan to play a role more suited for him?
A: A.J. is a professional and he's ready to be the first guy, God forbid something happened. But A.J. knows his role. He's prepared for his role and he's prepared to step up if he has to.

Q: Has Jordan played well in practice?
A: Yes. In preseason games and in practice and in the first game (against Carolina). He has done well both blocking and catching the ball.

Q: What caused Cercone to be promoted to the active roster?
A: Just the situation where we have run so much two tight ends that you want to have somebody there ready to go. Not that he wasn't ready to go, but you want to make sure that he's prepared, he's online and ready to be put into a game and do his job.

Q: What areas with Cercone are you looking to fine-tune?
A: Matt's a good all-around player. He's a tough blocker, he comes off the ball hard, he's a hard-nosed kid and he runs well and catches the ball well. He probably does not have as much speed as the other two guys, but that's really not what we are looking for in a third guy. We are looking for a guy that can hammer it like he can, especially in the running game.

Q: Long snapper Brody Heffner-Liddiard also is listed as a tight end. Does he do much work at that position?
A: He contributes on a lot of the look team stuff, kind of keeping the other guys fresh a little bit. We use him during practice on the look team and that's his role as a tight end right now. He sits in on our meetings and he's up to speed on everything that's going on. But right now his role in the offense is to contribute during practice. VU

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