FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons tight end Chase Coffman’s once-promising professional career is off to an extremely slow start. His path from Missouri to the NFL has been littered with unfulfilled expectations, injuries and broken promises.
On Saturday, he worked out and signed with the Falcons, his third team since being selected in the third-round (98th overall) in the 2009 NFL draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Flowery Branch could be the last stop on the NFL train for Coffman, who was once considered a “can’t miss” prospect who won the John Mackey Award, which goes to the nation’s best tight end. In 2008, he beat out Oklahoma’s Jermaine Gresham (Bengals) and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Pettigrew (Lions) for the Mackey award.
Despite his woes, Coffman remains confident that he can play in the NFL.
“I feel like I can,” Coffman said after Sunday’s practice. “I feel like I can be a huge asset to the Falcons. I’m still grateful for this opportunity.”
At Missouri from 2005 to 2008, Coffman was a pass-catching force. He finished with 247 career catches and 30 touchdown receptions, both school marks. He went 45 straight games with a reception.
But, to his detriment, the Missouri coaches rarely used him as a blocker, which is a key part of the position in the NFL.
At least with the Falcons, Coffman has some support. Safety William Moore and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon played with Coffman at Missouri.
The three of them were chatting early during practice, talking about some of their old professors.
“I’m glad to see Chase get another opportunity,” Moore said. “He’s a heck of an athlete. I still believe in him as far as him being the best tight end in the nation. He’s a great athlete. I’m excited about him coming here.”
Weatherspoon doesn’t think Coffman’s glory days are over.
“He caught a ton of balls for us,” Weatherspoon said. “I think he can catch some here, too. We have to get him in the system, get him more comfortable and have some fun out here. I think he’ll definitely be an asset.”
The Falcons signed Coffman after tight end Adam Nissley suffered a knee injury in the exhibition season opener against the Ravens and was waived injured.
Coffman caught 90 passes during his senior season at Missouri, but suffered a broken foot in the Alamo Bowl. He did not participate in the NFL scouting combine and teams were not able to evaluate him as a blocker.
The Bengals took a chance on Coffman, but he spent most of this time on the practice squad. He played in just six games with the Bengals and caught three passes for 30 yards.
“It was a rough little patch there, but I’m finally feeling real good,” Coffman said. “The hole healing process just went kind of slow. I wasn’t able to do the combine or workout. I didn’t do OTAs. The first time I started learning all of that stuff, all of that blocking technique and actually doing it, was in camp.”
He signed with Tampa Bay in March, but was waived by the Bucs on Monday, August 6 to make room for a long snapper.
“I went down there, learned everything and then whenever we signed Dallas Clark all of my reps went away,” Coffman said. “They said they just wanted to give me a chance to catch on somewhere else because Dallas was their guy.”
Coffman’s father Paul played 11 seasons in the NFL for Green Bay, Kansas City and Minnesota (1978-1988) and made three trips to the Pro Bowl.
The younger Coffman feels that he’s finally healthy and has the right mindset to improve as a blocker. His father has been a valuable resource.
“He tells me to just be aggressive,” Coffman said. “Be physical. Be violent. Just go all out and not to let effort be something that they can call you out on.”
The Falcons are force-feeding Coffman the playbook and plan to have him ready to play against the Bengals at 8 p.m. Thursday night at the Georgia Dome.
“He’s had some injuries through his first couple of years, but he had a very good workout for us,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “We were impressed with what he can do. He’s very athletic. We’re going to give him the opportunity to get into the mix with the rest of the tight ends.”
THE LATEST NEWS
OTHER TOP STORIES
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog