Daniel Bellinger makes it sound easy.
“You’re pounding the guy, you’re pounding the guy, he thinks you’re going to pound him again, and you slip out and get a touchdown,” he said summarizing the role of the tight end in the NFL.
Maybe it is that simple.
But just in case it’s not, the Giants' fourth-round pick plans on spending some time this summer learning more of the nuances of a position that these days requires more versatility, intelligence and athleticism than just about any other on the field. With the on-field portion of his first offseason program with his new team complete — the Giants wrapped up their minicamp practices on Wednesday — and time off between now and the start of training camp in late July, Bellinger will be spending part of his summer vacation going to school at Tight End University.
That’s not a real school, you may have guessed, but an annual informal convention spearheaded by two luminaries of the position, George Kittle and Travis Kelce. This year they’ll be gathering in late June in Nashville to spend time breaking down film, running through drills, discussing the theory and practicality of their jobs, and bonding over their mutual love of all things tight end.
And even though Bellinger has yet to play an NFL snap, he’s been invited and plans to attend.
“I just want to learn from them,” Bellinger said this week. “I have a long way to go but the biggest thing for me is to learn from them. You grow up watching them and then in college you watch them on tape but now getting an opportunity to either just text them or talk to them . . . I can really get an inside perspective.”
Bellinger has already done some of that. He and the 49ers' Kittle are represented by the same agency so prior to this spring’s draft the two were able to connect and even met for dinner.
“[I was able to] pick his brain on a lot of stuff,” Bellinger said. “Just learning from him and being a sponge, absorbing everything he says and everything he did as a rookie and how he got to the point where he is.”
Bellinger, like Kittle and so many other tight ends who have come into the league in recent years, arrived in the NFL without standout stats. In four years at San Diego State, Bellinger caught only 68 passes, 31 of them coming last year as a senior. He was used more as a blocker than a receiver.
The pro game allows — demands, really — tight ends to be able to do both with equal proficiency. So far Bellinger has been able to display that ability.
“He's got some traits that we liked when he was coming out,” coach Brian Daboll said after watching Bellinger throughout the spring. “Good size, some quickness, good speed. He catches the ball well. He didn't have a ton of catches there [in college], but he didn't have a ton of targets either. He's done a good job of picking up our stuff.”
All of which is impressive because Bellinger hasn’t even been able to do what he does best. Without shoulder pads and full contact in OTAs and minicamp, Bellinger has yet to be asked to actually block anyone.
That’s an assignment he is looking forward to when training camp starts.
“I like being able to block somebody,” he said. “I feel like that‘s football. It’s how I grew up, with a mindset that hitting somebody is football so blocking somebody is football. I love blocking.”
He sees opportunities in the receiving game as a reward for that physical work.
“You have to have a perseverance,” he said of playing tight end. “You want to catch balls? You also have to block too.”
Pound ‘em, pound ‘em, then slip out for a touchdown?
Maybe it can be that simple.
Notes & quotes: Giants minicamp was scheduled to conclude with practice on Thursday but Daboll scrapped that workout as a reward to the players and instead held an organization-wide barbecue at the team facility. “I feel like Coach does a really good job of listening to the players, listening to the staff, and understanding we've been grinding,” Saquon Barkley said on Wednesday after what turned out to be the final practice of the spring. “We've been going since April 4. We've been grinding for a little bit.” . . . While the veterans were dismissed after the barbecue, Giants rookies will remain at the facility for another week of in-house programs. The entire team will reassemble for the start of training camp on July 26.