CHARLOTTE — The Panthers drafted Tommy Tremble because he can do a lot of different things.
Now, they want him to do more.
The tight end from Notre Dame appealed to them for a number of reasons, beginning with his athleticism and versatility. Now, as the third-rounder begins to learn the NFL game, they want to add to his arsenal.
Tremble said Panthers tight ends coach Brian Angelichio has been working with him on becoming a more natural receiver of the football.
"That's something coach Ang really has me working on to this day," Tremble said. "It's something we always practice on, but we're not just going to throw out the blocking aspect, we're working on that every day too.
"He's just working on me becoming a complete tight end every day."
That's going to be a project that could take some time and development.
For all his talent, Tremble caught 35 passes his last two seasons at Notre Dame. That was partly a function of opportunities, as he was playing alongside other talented pass-catchers at the position. Tremble's reputation as a fierce and willing blocker caught their attention, but Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said they looked beyond the back of the football card in their evaluations.
"We took him because of his versatility," Rhule said. "It's funny, after the draft I heard some people talk; we don't really look at statistics as much as we look at skill sets. We think he's a guy who can help us in the passing game."
While he works on it, there's less immediate pressure on Tremble to contribute that way. Carolina signed free agent Dan Arnold because of the receiving ability he showed in Arizona last year, and the Panthers still have incumbent Ian Thomas around.
"I think all of those guys are going to fight to find their niche," Rhule said. "I think for a young player in Tremble, it's hard for me to get too far ahead of my skis and say he's going to be this, and he's going to be that, but we certainly believe in his skill set as a receiver."
Tremble doesn't have the prototypical size of an inline blocker (he's 6-3, 241 pounds), but like many of the Panthers' picks this year, he scored well during the pre-draft athletic testing.
He ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash and posted a 36.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot-2-inch board jump, which signals the explosiveness they're looking for.
Tremble said he's also worked with a number of coaches and former NFL players this offseason to improve his skills as a receiver, and there were moments during rookie minicamp when it appeared to be paying off.
It's hard to make too many sweeping judgments based on routes run against air, without the regular quarterbacks, or in a more competitive environment. Still, there were moments when Tremble appeared competent, and that's a start.
The reality remains that his job will be a varied one. Because of his skill as a blocker, he's going to line up in a number of roles, with the ability to play as a fullback or H-back, in addition to special teams.
So while he's not a typical prospect, he's playing an atypical position.
"I feel like a tight end, really the best use is day-by-day," Tremble said. "Really dealing with what kind of defense we're going against, game planning that, and then playing specifically to those situations. One game it could be 90 percent blocking and only 10 percent receiving. And other games, it might be 10 percent blocking and 90 percent receiving. It's really calculating what we need to do through the preparation of our week when it comes game time.
"Like I said before, coach Ang is trying to get me to be a complete tight end, to do all those situations."
View photos from Saturday's rookie minicamp practice at the Atrium Health practice fields.