Former Super Bowl Winner Explains the Evolution of the Tight End Position Over the Years

Published 07/05/2021, 9:39 AM EDT
Dec 26, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports


The tight end position is one that has long gone undervalued for years. Once viewed simply as blockers on the O-line, some modern-day tight ends are now primary pass targets for their quarterbacks. 

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Tight ends like Travis Kelce and George Kittle are seen as the best examples of this new breed of tight ends. And with similar talent cropping up in the form of rookie TE Kyle Pitts, the NFL is seeing a significant shift in how tight ends play the game.

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Talking about the position’s evolution in detail, former Super Bowl winner Rob Ninkovich chronicled the journey of this transformation.

Tight end position one that keeps evolving

Appearing on Get Up, former New England Patriots defensive end Rob Ninkovich talked about how the position has kept changing even after he hung up his boots in 2016.

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“Look, the tight end position, in general, has changed so much. I can think back to 2006. When I looked at Ernie Conwell, for example, who played as a blocking TE in the NFL. I looked at that guy and was like, ‘You want me to go against that guy?’ He was like 300 pounds, pure muscle, the scariest looking guy in the world.” said Ninkovich.

Tight ends of the modern age are lighter and faster. Focused more on gaining more yards and scoring more touchdowns, Ninkovich talked about the three types of tight ends he can identify in the NFL.

September 13, 2020; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers George Kittle (85) runs against Arizona Cardinals strong safety Budda Baker (32) during the first quarter at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

“The position, in general, has changed. We’ve seen the transition from the blocking tight end to a blocking-receiving TE. From there to just a strictly a receiving tight end,” he said.

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Ninkovich even went on to name the sort of tight end he prefers and the best player he’s seen play at that position.

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“A good blocking/receiving tight end to me is the more respectable tight end. More like a (Rob) Gronkowski, who I think is the best TE of all time.

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Agree with the two-time Super Bowl winner’s thoughts? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Shivayan Roy

920 articles

Shivayan Roy is currently an NFL writer at EssentiallySports. After completing his Masters Diploma in Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism, Roy functioned as a reporter for Goal.com and extensively covered the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

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