GREEN BAY—When asked early in the offseason about Brandon Bostick, Head Coach Mike McCarthy made a curious comment regarding the young tight end.
McCarthy said Bostick might have been the Packers' best blocking tight end in 2013. That's noteworthy praise for a converted wide receiver from little Newberry College who has always referred to his blocking as "a work in progress," and still does.
"It gives you more confidence when the head coach says that, so now when I go out there, I'm just trying to be the best tight end," Bostick said. "Not just the best receiver or the best blocker, the best overall tight end."
Bostick may not be as far away from that distinction as his modest career statistics (11 games played, seven receptions, 120 yards) suggest.
While Andrew Quarless is the proven veteran who became a reliable target for quarterback Aaron Rodgers down the stretch last season, Ryan Taylor remains a special-teams ace and rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers shows loads of promise following a strong early impression, Bostick is the one hearing the loudest knock of opportunity in 2014.
That's one reason he pushed his rehab as hard as he could to get back on the field this offseason. Bostick injured his foot last December in Dallas and needed surgery. His recovery forced him to begin OTAs in late May on the sidelines, but he was back in action for the last couple of weeks of workouts in June.
"Every day I was asking the doctor, 'Can I go out there? Can I go? Can I do this?'" Bostick said. "Finally they just let me do it."
While still working his body back into shape from the extended layoff, Bostick finished his abbreviated offseason with a memorable play, leaping over rookie safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to haul in a well-placed fade in the end zone from backup quarterback Scott Tolzien.
It was the type of play Bostick was starting to make regularly last season when his role on offense increased following the season-ending injury to Jermichael Finley. In a span of four straight games Bostick played (he missed one during the stretch due to a concussion), he caught at least one pass for 19 or more yards, including a 22-yard TD against Philadelphia on a wheel route from Tolzien in which Bostick's open-field speed was on display.
Unfortunately, the foot injury in Dallas occurred one week after the fourth of those four 19-plus yard grabs, and Bostick was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. Still, the game action should serve as a springboard for Bostick, who spent his entire 2012 rookie year on the practice squad.
"It helped me a lot, just the experience being out there with the guys, being out there in big situations, so now I'm just trying to be that guy every play and be consistent in everything I do," he said. "And get the trust from A-Rod of course. That's the big thing, too."
Continuing to work on special teams will be important as well. Bostick has the body type (6-3, 250) the Packers like to employ on their return and coverage units, and he was credited with seven special-teams tackles last season, tying for fourth on the team despite missing five games.
As with his blocking, Bostick showed the acumen for special teams quickly after not performing on those units in college. Continued production there will help him earn a roster spot as he continues to strive for his primary goal.
While he acknowledges Quarless as his friend and leader of the tight end group, Bostick is out to become that No. 1 guy. His quest begins for real in training camp.
"I want to come back and be the starter," he said as he departed for summer break. "I'm going to work hard. I think I can accomplish anything I want to. If I'm not the starter, I'll do whatever they tell me."