Rookie TE Sudfeld impressive so far in camp

Rookie TE Sudfeld impressive so far in camp
August 6, 2013, 12:00 am
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FOXBORO – Zach Sudfeld doesn’t have to replace Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez. He doesn’t have to beat out Jake Ballard and Michael Hoomanawanui.
 
This week, the undrafted rookie out of Nevada just needs to keep doing what he’s doing as the Patriots roll into Philadelphia for two practices and a preseason game with the Eagles.
 
In the confines of Foxboro, Sudfeld’s looked capable in drills, 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s. The 6-7, 260-pound rookie appears to have earned at least some of Tom Brady’s confidence so far.
 
With Ballard missing a little time, Gronkowski still sidelined and Hernandez incarcerated, Sudfeld’s had the opportunity to be on the field a lot. His smoothness in the passing game is obvious. He hasn’t been blatantly singled out for stupidity.
 
Easy so far?
 
“I wouldn’t say anything’s been easy,” said Sudfeld. “There’s a lot of effort that goes into the mental side and it’s a graduate level football. A lot of checks and a lot of reads. I’ve been trying to delve into the playbook and take coaching as best I can.”
 
Why wasn’t Sudfeld drafted? Injuries at Nevada were part of it. He came into the league as a 24-year-old, having missed two seasons with injuries and surgeries. Nevada isn’t a school from a power conference. And he’s a little on the slight side, believe it or not. He put up 225 pounds just 11 times at Nevada’s Pro Day.  
 
But, as Sudfeld indicated in this video, Nevada ran a fairly complex system that asked a lot from the tight ends.
 
That’s something Bill Belichick addressed on Monday as well.

“I think (tight end) is one of the most difficult positions in any offense,” said Belichick. “Any time you change formations, that player is really at the heart of the changes. …The tight end or tight ends, they’re involved in a lot of the formation variations, which then involve them in a lot of different assignments. Basically they’re involved in the passing game, the running game, pass protection, blitz adjustments, all the multiple tight end personnel groups like goal line and short-yardage and four-minute offense and things like that in addition to their, as bigger players, their roles in the kicking game.
 
“It’s really hard to get around,” Belichick pointed out. “You might be able to get around a part of that, but not too many parts of it. Or else the guy is a receiver or he’s an offensive lineman. That’s really what it comes down to. Sure, that position takes a lot. It takes a lot, there are a lot of assignments, there are a lot of adjustments. They have a lot of different responsibilities.”
 
Sudfeld hasn’t been deterred by the complexity, he said.
 
“I’ve been pretty focused. You’re here to do a job. Every day, I’m working to understand better and grasp the concepts and I’ve been able to do that so far one day at a time. Everything is pretty complex now. I definitely have a lot of work to do with blocking and technique.”
 
Going against safeties, defensive ends and outside linebackers that are far, far stronger and more agile than what he saw at Nevada has been an adjustment.
 
“Everyone here is good,” said Sudfeld. “It’s really about technique and learning that stuff and developing my game and blocking technique and footwork.”
 
The strength development, said Belichick, will come.

“I’d say that probably in 90 percent of the cases, the players that come into this league at age 21, 22, whatever it is, as rookies, physically are behind the players who are 25, 26, 27, 28 that have another three, four, five, six years of professional football training that a 21-, 22-year old just doesn’t have, as well as the whole mental side of experience and amount of football playing,” he explained. “But the physical development for all of them is, I think there are very few guys that come in here at 21 or 22 that don’t make a, if they work at it, that don’t make a significant jump within four, five, six years of solid training both offseason and in-season training. I’d say there are very few players that don’t fall into that category.”
 
Belichick, so far, seems optimistic about what he’s seen.

“Zach has come in and absorbed a lot of information,” Belichick pointed out. “The offense that he played in at Nevada is quite a bit different than what we do. I’m sure there are some similarities but there are quite a few differences as well. He’s been able to acclimate to those changes. He catches the ball well.”
 
This week, a new test.
 
“I’m so excited,” said Sudfeld. “I couldn’t be more excited. Have a big week of work ahead but I’m happy to go out there and play.”