Rob Gronkowski needs no introduction as he has built his reputation on being a hardcore, physically intimidating tight end with the unique ability to escape defenders and secure receptions that make others gape in awe.
But even though Gronkowski is an eight-time Super Bowler with around a decade of NFL experience, he still finds the two-minute drill the most difficult aspect of the game. He said, “… it’s always a hard task, but it’s especially tough in the early days of pre-season training camp when [I’m] getting back into gear after a long offseason.”
The two-minute drill is especially difficult on tight ends because of the lack of rest in between each play, and the physicality demanded of the drill absolutely sapping the player of almost all his energy. As he told Insider, “At some points in my career, I’ve tapped out on two-minute drills, or I’ve only run five miles per hour because I was just shot!”
The two-minute drill also forces the body to quickly flip from one aspect of the game to another, switching from blocking to receiving. Blocking forces the individual to utilize strong lower body, core, and upper body strength, a full-body requirement, to disrupt a defender’s movement. Meanwhile, receiving requires speed, agility, and quickness (SAQ) to run routes away from the defender before needing to make the crucial catch at the end of the route.
The tight end position requires a strong physical front combined with an affinity for getting open and making a reception. As Gronkowski said, “It’s really hard to fine-tune it, to be able to block and also go out for a pass on the next play.”
How to Apply this to Young Athletes
Because the tight end position is so difficult to condition for and play, there are some exercise modalities and programs that could help young athletes prepare for the two-minute drill and the game and their career at large.
High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT is perhaps the closest modality to what actually occurs on the field during the course of the game for a tight end. If a coach could combine perhaps a blocking drill with an immediate route, that would best simulate what is occurring during the two-minute drill and in-game.
An auxiliary conditioning program could utilize lifting and explosive SAQ training. Another drill a coach could implement is having an athlete conduct a clean and jerk to simulate the need to block first then have the athlete sprint towards cones or a speed ladder to better train SAQ before preparing to catch a ball at the end.
Because the coach wants to prepare the athlete for the two-minute drill and in-game, the circuits could be completed in quick succession from either the same circuit or switching between the two.
Football at large requires blocking, running, receiving, SAQ, and full-body strength. However, most positions require only two or three of these at a time for a burst of roughly 3 – 5 seconds. But, the tight end position, especially during the two-minute drill, requires all aspects of the game from switching from blocking to receiving in the same play. The body is prepared for this roughly 30 – 60 second burst of energy, but even then, it has its limits.
Training effectively with HIIT, lifting, and SAQ will best prepare the athlete for the two-minute drill, in-game, and career at large.