(On connection with QB Gardner Minshew II and expectations) "Fortunately, me and Minshew, I think the connection started in camp last year and a couple preseason games we had something going. And obviously when [former Jaguars QB] Nick [Foles] went down, Minshew came in and I think he had a connection with a lot of people. I don't think people give him enough credit, that he just sped the ball around. I think he likes using his tight ends, but he has no problem throwing it to anybody else on the field that wins their routes. And offensively, I've been really impressed with what [Jaguars OC] Jay [Gruden] has brought in. It's an offense that has many different looks to it, many different combinations, one off each other. [It] keeps defenses on its toes and we've already had defensive players from our team come up to us and compliment the improvements we've already made. You know, it's early, we've still got a ways to go, but so far it's been a sign of optimism."
(On the tight end group performance in general and on TE Tyler Eifert's efforts) "Well, I'll start off with the group as a whole, I think this is one of the best groups we've had since we've been here. We've got a lot of us tall guys. Obviously, the injury to [TE Josh] Oliver really hurts, I hope everybody knows and understands how hard of a worker he is, how hard he worked to show something this year and sometimes it's the way it goes. But as a group, we have a lot of young guys that I think can fill the role. We have a lot of versatility, people that can block end lines, split them out. And then you have [TE Tyler] Eifert, who is a Pro Bowl-caliber player, which if anyone has been watching him the first couple practices, you see why. He's a heck of a route runner, he can fight in the pass game and in the run game. And he's just a great leadership guy, we haven't had veterans like that, that often in the last couple of years who have had Pro Bowl experience. So, to have somebody in that room sharing their knowledge, little tips—you know, I can even think of 2-3 little tips that he has given me that I've never heard before and they really help me out. So, we're all very fortunate to have him in our room."
(On the impact of TE Tyler Eifert's past experience with OC Jay Gruden) "That's awesome, because a lot of us, even new coaches, are still learning the system, learning the little things. And offense can be so nuanced, depending on who you're going against, the defensive coordinator, the style of player you go against, there can be a lot of small changes to it. And since he's played with Jay, knowing all the things he wants in different scenarios, it's just a great resource for us that when we have questions on a look, we can just reference it to him."
(On rehabbing during a pandemic) "I was very fortunate for the fact that I was able to come to work, besides for I think three weeks throughout the whole offseason. But just for being a football player, not having OTAs [organized team activities] was an odd thing for I think everybody. Especially for me, since I had been around the team at the end of the season, but I wasn't in every meeting, I obviously wasn't playing. So, for me, it felt like two years since I had last stepped on a football field or had even seen football. So, that was the oddest thing about the pandemic, where usually you have your set schedule, you're planning this/that, you get your vacations in this time so you're ready to go at this time. And now it's all just on a whim, one week things are open, the next week it's not, then everything's not. I think it's a difficult time for a lot of people, but like I said, I was very fortunate from the fact that I had a great training staff that still did everything possible to make sure I was ready."
(On concern about not being on track to come back during the pandemic) "Yeah 100 percent, 100 percent. I was very concerned just because of how things are going. There was a time where I wasn't allowed in the building, and then, all of a sudden, a day before, they say, 'Oh you can come back.' So, that whole weekend and week, I was scrambling trying to project how I'm going to handle my next week. Fortunately, I was able to get back in and then even two weeks before camp started, that kind of freaked me out because we weren't allowed to—injured people weren't allowed in the building. So, I was doing all of my rehab at home, working with different physical therapists, trying to communicate with the people here to make sure I was ready. It's just—for me, every day matters, every rep matters, every rest day matters, everything matters for me to make sure I'm 100% when it comes day one, so I can contribute the way I need to. So, it was kind of touch and go and it really kind of gave me a lot of anxiety about it. But fortunately, like I said, I had a great training staff here that communicated with me, did everything possible if I needed help at home, if I needed to reach out to somebody, they did everything possible to make sure I was ready."
(On feeling when he was activated for training camp this year) "Well, to be honest, I was a little bit frustrated because I wanted to never be on the PUP [physically unable to perform], I had planned to be cleared by when we showed up. So, to be put on PUP, I was a little frustrated. But it was a great feeling, man. To be honest, I didn't really celebrate long because to me it was, 'Now I've actually got to get to work.' Before, being on PUP, you're off to the side, you're not running routes with the team, you're not doing all the things that they're doing to start off training camp. And it was just frustrating to see that and to know that I set a goal and I didn't get a chance to accomplish it. But I knew that doesn't change the real goal, which is to be ready for Week 1. So, it was a great feeling, but like I said, it was about 30 minutes of happiness and then I was like 'Okay what do I need to know for tomorrow? What do I need to do to make sure I'm ready to go?'"
(On his thoughts of the possibility of no fans and its impact on their game day experience) "Well, I've thought about it a little bit and there's no question, it's going to affect things. It's going to make the game day experience not as lavish, not as grand. And the game day feeling is a special feeling, it's what you work every day, week, after week, month after month, to get to that game to showcase what you can, in front of all these 80, 70 thousand fans in person, millions of fans on the TV. But at the end of the day, it doesn't change our job. We still have to come in and win, whether it's a home game, road game, fans, 20 percent, no fans. Obviously, it stinks for a lot of the fans in Jacksonville and across the country who love this game and love to see it in-person. But it's the world we live in now, we've just got to handle it. And us as players, we've just got to rise up to the challenge, because I think it will bring a little bit of a challenge for most because it's a new thing. But at the end of the day, I think once the pads get on, you start rolling. You might not hear the crowd noises as much, but you're still focusing on your job."
(On Jay Gruden's offense in general and the importance of the tight end position) "Well, [the] offense is amazing. It has a West Coast background, but it has new wrinkles that I haven't seen before and I've been with some pretty good OC's offenses before with the [Kansas City] Chiefs and the [New England] Patriots. So, I've seen a lot and I saw concepts I've never seen before and that was cool to see. From being a football junkie, enjoying the X's and O's to see the different ways he compliments each route off of another. You can see how we can go three different ways in a game and then hit them back and compliment off those—it's impressive. And from the tight end standpoint, watching the film, studying what they've done with other tight ends, like [San Francisco 49ers TE] Jordan Reed, [San Francisco 49ers TE] Vernon Davis, Eifert back in Cincinnati. I mean, there's a lot of optimism for everybody in the room. We're going to have a role and we're going to have to contribute, not just in the run game, in the pass game. And do our best to make sure that we have a well-oiled machine with a true identity."
(On leaning on TE Tyler Eifert this year) "A lot. Yeah, I think I said this earlier that, even the coaches are new to this offense, so you can't project talking about a certain style of player, a certain defensive coverage that might be the same as last week but played slightly different. So, we can always reference him when we're watching film, like 'Hey did you like think that was the right move? What would you do? What do you see on this combination again to this? Against this type of player? Against this style of defense?' So, it's just awesome to have him as a reference, to even—when we don't have the coaches to talk to, or somebody to ask the question to, we can always go to him. You know, I've texted him before, on our off days, just to check in like, 'Hey on this play here, did you think this?' and he's just awesome with that. So, it's just been nice to have that type of resource, someone who's been through it, a Pro Bowl-caliber guy who understands the game, so he's been a great resource."
(On confidence that the tight ends will be more involved this season) "Yeah 100 percent. I will say, it's a tough question to ask because it's pretty early on. But I think, no question, we're going to—with this style of offense, we're going to get more opportunities in the pass game, we'll be more of a focal point than maybe in years past. But at the end of the day, the job of a tight end isn't always just to catch passes, we have three or four different jobs, whether it be pass pro or if the o-line needs us, if we need a run game, which is extremely important. Then we also have fullback, if depending on how the team roster shapes out, we might have to do that, too. So, it's going to be nice for the fact that I think we'll definitely get the opportunities more in the pass game. But at the end of the day, our job is more than just that and I think we've got a heck of a room that can do a lot of different things."