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Cottam has big shoes to fill

Chiefs need Cottam to catch on at tight end
The Kansas City Star

When his time with the Chiefs is up, Brad Cottam hopes he can be a reasonable part of any discussion comparing him to Tony Gonzalez.

He has a lot of work ahead before getting to that point, so the Chiefs new starting tight end knows that one — at least for now — is no contest.

“I already know I’m not going to have 100 catches like Tony would get every season,” Cottam said. “I’m a completely different player than he is. I’d like to think I’ll be able to take some things from his game. But I’m not going to worry about trying to keep up with everything he was able to do.”

Trying to keep up with Gonzalez is one way Cottam will never get his wish. Gonzalez caught at least 70 passes in each of his last 10 seasons with the Chiefs and more than 90 four times, including each of the last two years.

The Chiefs drafted Cottam in the third round last year to be Gonzalez’s eventual successor, but not with the idea he would be that kind of receiver. Cottam caught all of 21 passes in his four collegiate seasons at Tennessee.

“I was brought here for a different reason, to be more of a blocker,” Cottam said. “I’ve showed them I can be a pretty good receiver, too. I just hope people will be saying good things about me down the road. Maybe someday I’ll be looked at as a better-rounded tight end.”

The Chiefs have a lot pinned on that hope. Their other tight ends are a collection of journeymen and developmental players.

So while the Chiefs don’t expect Cottam to get close to Gonzalez-like numbers, they need help from him as a receiver.

“I don’t see any reason any of the quarterbacks wouldn’t have confidence throwing to him,” backup quarterback Tyler Thigpen said. “He’s a big, strong guy who catches the ball well and can run with it, too. He hasn’t given us any reason not to have confidence in him.”

Cottam’s time almost started last season when the Chiefs came close to trading Gonzalez. A deal didn’t happen, and Cottam played as the second tight end, starting seven games and catching seven passes, including four in one game against the New York Jets.

The Chiefs finally sent Gonzalez to Atlanta last month.

“I’d heard so much about trades, but I’d heard so much that I quit paying attention to it and didn’t think it was really going to happen,” Cottam said. “I really thought Tony would be here until he retired. Then I was at home one day talking on the phone to my buddy and he was reading it across ESPN. I thought he was messing with me but I turned it on and saw it for myself.”

Cottam said he’s more prepared to be the starter now than he would have been last year.

“When I got here last year, I didn’t know what to expect or what was going on,” Cottam said. “Everything was new, everything was an eye-opener and not just in football, but living on your own and having a house and all of that stuff. That puts a lot of stress on you.

“This year, I know the routine. Once you get comfortable with something, it’s a lot easier to excel. I’m a million times more ready for this than I would have been last year. I feel I got eased into it last year at a pretty good pace. I got to start seven games last year. Obviously, Tony was in there but I was in there and I got to play a lot. I wasn’t just pushed into it.”

This may be Cottam’s last chance to claim the position. General manager Scott Pioli has a history of drafting tight ends in the first round from his days with the Patriots, so the Chiefs may be looking for a tight end next year if Cottam doesn’t play well.

Cottam appears to be taking his chance seriously. He’s working after practice catching extra passes from both quarterbacks and a passing machine.

“In your head, something kind of clicks when you know there’s an opening,” Cottam said.

“I knew as well as everybody else that as long as Tony was here, I’m not going to be in front of him. It’s a little spark that gets you going, gets you motivated now that he’s gone.”

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