GREEN BAY - Sharing a position with the most gregarious man in football, Green Bay Packers tight end Lance Kendricks is easy to overlook.
He doesn’t have Martellus Bennett’s mega-watt personality. Doesn’t have that Super Bowl LI ring. Even his free-agent signing with the Packers, on a Saturday afternoon, not 24 hours after Bennett arrived, was overshadowed.
It might always be that way. Kendricks, the seventh-year tight end out of Wisconsin, never has caught more than 600 yards in a season. Bennett has done it four times in the past five years.
Kendricks doesn’t mind having company on the depth chart. Never, he said, has Kendricks been on a team with so many experienced tight ends, including former third-round pick Richard Rodgers.
“It kind of helps ease your mind a little bit,” Kendricks said, “because you don’t have to put so much pressure on yourself to be the No. 1 tight end. We all can catch, and you have a bunch of really good receivers, too. So it’s like no pressure for us. We just go out there and do our job and perform and see what happens.”
Even if complementary, Kendricks’ role in the Packers’ offense could be valuable. With Bennett, the Packers have a true, do-it-all tight end. Kendricks gives the position much-needed depth.
The Milwaukee native is coming off perhaps his best season with the Los Angeles Rams, his career-high 50 catches producing 499 yards and two touchdowns. With his first training camp in his home state approaching, Kendricks knows what he can bring the Packers.
He also know what the Packers can give him.
“Just being able to win,” he said. “I haven’t been around a team thus far that’s been able to win like here. My versatility helps that, being able to line up anywhere and do anything. So that’s kind of my challenge, just being that versatile player and being unique in that way, that I can help create mismatches.
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“I think that’s going to be where I come in handy, being able to create those mismatches, line up outside with a linebacker or something like that.”
That versatility adds another challenge this offseason. Within the Packers’ tight end position, there is more than one spot on the field to learn.
Kendricks must know them all.
To get a head start on the learning curve, Kendricks said he consulted his former college quarterback at Wisconsin. Scott Tolzien, now with the Indianapolis Colts, spent three years as a backup with the Packers. Few players in the locker room knew coach Mike McCarthy’s playbook better.
Kendricks was happy to let Tolzien impart some of that knowledge this offseason.
“I’m starting to pick up what routes I’m good at,” Kendricks said. “Or what I like, or what I’m comfortable with doing, as opposed to what Marty is probably a little bit more comfortable doing or what he likes. I think this is now the time to kind of figure out where to line up, but we’re still installing (the offense).
“So I think once we install, by camp we’ll watch film or the coaches will watch film and be like, ‘OK, he does this better, or he does this better.’”
Those extra sessions with Tolzien already have started to show. Working with quarterbacks at organized team activities last week, Kendricks and practice-squad tight end Beau Sandland were in a stack formation. When they were supposed to invert the stack, with Kendricks moving up and Sandland back, they initially missed the signal.
It didn’t take Kendricks long to notice something was awry, tapping Sandland’s side and adjusting before the snap.
“We ended up getting it right,” Kendricks said.
Such tweaks might seem minor, but they’re a sign Kendricks is already growing within the Packers’ system. There is a lot for Kendricks to do before camp opens.
His versatility means he’ll be expected to fill a variety of roles.
“You see him in the past when he was with St. Louis,” tight ends coach Brian Angelichio said, “you see him playing in the backfield, you see him playing in-line, you see him splitting out. He kind of does a little bit of everything and takes pride in that. He’s kind of that guy. If you need something, he has the ability to fill those roles.”