Brad Cottam, once thought to be the heir apparent to the TE throne of former Kansas City Chiefs great Tony Gonzalez, is now struggling just to make the team.
The 2010 training camp could be Cottam’s final stand.
Drafted in the 3rd round (87th overall) by the Herman Edwards regime, Cottam was brought in to shadow Gonzalez as he entered the twilight of his career. Things went as planned for in 2008, with Gonzalez leading the way and Cottam playing sparingly, racking up a meager 7 catches for 63 yards.
Then everything changed.
GM Carl Peterson resigned, giving way to Scott Pioli. Pioli’s first act as GM was to fire Herm Edwards. His 2nd act was to trade for Matt Cassel and MIke Vrabel and his 3rd act was to trade away Tony Gonzalez. The door was open for Cottam.
The new look Chiefs went to camp and as quickly as Cottam’s door opened, Haley slammed it shut. Cottam was quickly relegated to the 2nd and 3rd teams as the Chiefs began rotating in what would be a season long parade of tight ends. Draft pick Jake O’Connel, Sean Ryan, Lenard Pope and Cottam all got turns at TE throughout the season.
By Week 9, Cottam had 1 catch for 11 yards and he had only seen action in 2 games.
Suddenly, in Week 10, Cottam was back on the field doing a little blocking. Then, in Week 13 in a humiliating 43-13 loss to the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs threw the ball to Cottam and he responded by reeling in 3 catches for 21 yards. The next week in Buffalo, Cottam played again and had another catch, this one going for 26 yards.
It all came to a head in Cleveland in Week 15 in what was arguably the Chiefs best offensive performance of the season and Cottam’s best game as a pro.
Matt Cassel went to Cottam 4 different times to the tune of 62 yards. That is a 15.5 yards per catch average from a 6-7, 269 pound tight end.
Cottam was on his way to what looked like his breakout game, when with about 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Cottam caught a short pass from Matt Cassel and while stretching out for extra yards he was upended and landed on his head. Cottam broke his neck, ending his season and possibly, his career with the Chiefs.
It takes a long time to recover from an injury like the one Cottam suffered. Throughout the offseason program, Cottam worked out in the Chiefs rehab zone, awaiting the OK from team doctors that he could return to practice.
After spending 3 months in a neck brace, Cottam is hoping to be cleared for contact before training camp. While he is at the mercy of his doctors, Cottam isn’t worried about doing further damage.
“If I thought there was any increased chance of something bad happening because of the injury, I would not have come back,” said Cottam. “They tell me I’ll be able to play without any more concerns than normal. As long as that’s the case, I’ll be on the field.”
The true test may not come down to Cottam’s toughness, however, but his ability to overcome the odds being stacked against him.
Scott Pioli has drafted 2 tight ends since arriving in Kansas City. The most recent pickup, Tony Moeaki was like Cottam, a 3rd round pick.
It is now or never for Cottam. To have any chance of making the team he has to be healthy by camp and he has to wow the coaches. He likely has no chance to unseat Moeaki at this point as the rookie performed very well in his limited OTA practices.
Cottam’s best chance is to deliver in special teams work, improve his blocking skills and do his damnedest to unseat Lenard Pope. Pope appears to be a Haley favorite so this will be no easy task.
It may not look good for Cottam now but I wouldn’t count him out just yet. Any guy tough enough to come back from a broken neck should be tough enough to play for Haley.
No, Cottam has proven his toughness off the field. Now he just has to do it on the field.