In this pass-happy age in which tight ends are more receivers than blockers, Michael Matthews is a throwback to a time when a tight end was more like an extra offensive lineman than wide receiver.
That's fine with Matthews, who takes pride in doing the dirty work.
"For me, it's about just going in there and being physical and being willing to throw your body around," Matthews said after a Buffalo Bills practice this week. "That's the thing. You've got to want to do it. A lot of tight ends want to score touchdowns, but they might not want to block that goal line play or take on a defensive end or linebacker. I don't mind it at all."
Matthews has just eight catches in his first three NFL seasons, but getting more receptions is not the reason the Bills picked him up off waivers three days before the draft. They already have tight ends — Shawn Nelson and Derek Schouman — who can catch passes.
What they want from the 6-foot-4, 270-pound Matthews is what he does best: block.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey is constructing an offense with a heavy emphasis on the running game. Matthews gives the Bills a big, physical presence on the edges that can create running room for running backs Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Marshawn Lynch on the perimeter.
"Running the football is going to be a key for us," Matthews said. "I feel I'm a guy who can help get the job done."
Matthews has a solid background in that area, going back to when he played for Gailey at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets ranked among the best rushing offenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference during Matthews' four years.
His blocking earned him a roster spot on the New York Giants as an undrafted rookie in 2007. He started seven games, including the Giants' upset win over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. He added five more starts in 16 games the following season.
With Matthews as part of their offensive front, the Giants' running game ranked first in the NFL and featured a pair of 1,000-yard rushers in 2008. They had the league's fourth-ranked run game in 2007.
"Michael is a big guy," Gailey said. "He carries a lot of weight, which is good, especially when he matches up against defensive ends. He's played on a championship team before, so he brings that to our football team. I do know a lot about him, I know he can be a physical blocker and we're looking to see what he can bring to the team."
Matthews has been getting a lot of work in the Bills' spring practices with the first-team offense in double-tight end formations. He has shown the ability to engage defenders and hold his ground at the point of attack.
He has even gotten involved as a receiver, much to Gailey's amusement.
"He's caught the ball a lot better than I remember him, to be honest with you," Gailey said.
Nelson is expected to start at tight end, leaving Matthews to compete with Schouman, Jonathan Stupar and Joe Klopfenstein for a backup spot. Gailey said everyone has a clean slate with him, but Matthews' knowledge of the system may give him a leg up on the competition.
"It's a great opportunity here," Matthews said. "I know the coach and what he wants, so that helps. I was part of his first recruiting class at Georgia Tech, so he has known me since I was 18 years old. He knows what he's getting and he knows that I'm going to work hard and give everything I've got."
Matthews hasn't played a full NFL season since the Giants traded him to New England prior to the 2009 campaign. He played in four games before the Patriots released him. He was picked up by Detroit in December and appeared in the last three games.
The Lions released him on April 20. The Bills acquired him a day later.
"I wasn't sure if I was going to get picked up, but I'm glad the Bills made the move," Matthews said. "I'm excited to be back with coach Gailey and be with a team that's giving me a chance to contribute. Whatever they need me to do and whatever it takes to get the job done, that's what I'll do."