ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** As the team broke from stretching at Broncos rookie minicamp on Saturday, Tight Ends Coach Clancy Barone barked, "Here we go tight ends, over here!"
Funny thing about that -- there was only one tight end in camp: converted wide receiver Gerell Robinson.
Each morning, Robinson jogged over to his coach's corner of the field and went straight into one-on-one work, taking a three-point stance as Barone lined up on either shoulder with a blocking pad. While other position groups cycled drills with each player waiting his turn, Robinson racked up the reps opposite his coach. The two hit the pad and the sled, drilling footwork, hand placement and technique with No. 89's hand in the dirt every snap.
"It's given me time to slow things down," Robinson said of being his position coach's lone pupil, an experience he's never had before. "It hasn't been chaotic with the installs."
"It's given me a chance to be one-on-one with him and learn the ins and outs and little innuendos about playing tight end."
Robinson arrived in Denver in 2012 as an undrafted rookie wideout from Arizona State, where he had been quarterback Brock Osweiler's go-to target in the pair's final college season. He spent the past two training camps with the Broncos as a receiver, but was approached by Executive Vice President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway about a position change near the start of last season.
"We had like a 15-minute conversation and he said nothing but good things and motivated me to make the switch," Robinson said. "I've been full steam ahead ever since."
At 6-foot-4 with 33-inch arms, Robinson certainly has the frame suiting a tight end. Bulking up for the position hasn't been an issue, either.
"I'm fortunate to say I'm athletic," he said. "I could drop weight fast or put it on pretty quick."
"Right now I'm probably 238, 240 and I'm still gradually fine tuning things and getting stronger. That's the main thing, getting stronger."
If his work at rookie minicamp was any indication, Robinson hasn't sacrificed much quickness in adding about 20 pounds. He's shown the agility to get in and out of his breaks and turn sharply upfield after catching bubble screens. Add that to a wide catch radius and potential matchups against linebackers and safeties -- which Robinson said "makes a world of difference" -- and you can see what Denver coaches had in mind with the position switch.
"We look for an athlete in the passing game at that position," Head Coach John Fox said. "We thought it was just a great opportunity for us to get him involved in that."
"Sometimes that takes a little coaching because it's a little bit different job description."
That's where Barone comes in. In eight years coaching tight ends in the NFL, Barone has helped Alge Crumpler (2005-06), Antonio Gates (2007-08) and Julius Thomas (2013) to a combined five Pro Bowl seasons.
"If you talk to him for five minutes you understand he knows the game," Robinson said. "Any time I get a chance to talk to him one-on-one, go up to his office or even get a chance like this, I couldn't pass this up to soak up all that knowledge."
Time will tell whether Robinson carves out a role for himself in training camp, but he has the physical tools. And a whole weekend of solo tutoring can only hasten the transition after he spent 2013 at tight end on the practice squad.
"Coming from wideout to tight end, the blocking element is something you have to develop," Fox said. "But he's long and willing and he's definitely got the receiving skills."
"I'm still learning little things, you know?" Robinson said. "But as far as heart and work ethic, I'm all there."