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Connolly center of attention again; Wed. notes

Posted Sep 14, 2011

Dan Koppen’s replacement talks about the opportunity to snap to Tom Brady. Plus, more news and notes from Wednesday, September 14 at Gillette Stadium.

Dan Connolly has been in this situation before. Two years ago, in fact. His locker was swarming with reporters after he’d replaced Dan Koppen at center in a game against the Dolphins. It looked like he would be starting the following week, until Koppen made a good-enough recovery to return to the lineup.

This time may be a little different, however. Koppen is now wearing a medical boot on his left foot after reportedly breaking his ankle and is expected to be on the shelf until the end of October at the earliest, and likely into November.

If that’s the case, Connolly is the man who’ll be snapping the ball to Tom Brady starting this Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.

That Connolly’s insertion was met without the least bit of disturbance to the continuity of New England’s o-line against Miami Monday night is a testament not only to the coaching he received, but also to his physical talent.

“I think that’s why I’m here. I showed versatility early on and I feel that’s why I was kept around, because I could play multiple positions,” Connolly explained at his locker today, surrounded by media eager for his comments.

“As for the other night,” he continued, “I just, as always, prepare myself for any position, even if I’m starting at guard. I need to have that versatility to play any position. I was ready when the time came for that the other night.

“Going forward,[I need to]  just keep doing what I always do: prepare for the opponents we’ve got. This week, San Diego. Good opponent, good front, good defensive line, good outside linebackers. It’ll be a challenge to study up and know these guys.”

Connolly downplayed the importance of preparing for the center position, which normally has the added responsibility of calling out the blocking schemes for the entire line, more so than he already does at guard.

“We all need to know what’s going on. I think at center, it’s just a more vocal position. I have to know what’s going on just like I would at guard.

“I’ve always backed up that position,” he added, “and played it throughout my career, just had never done it in a game [until 2009]. Maybe there’s a little more comfort [now].”

What will be important, he conceded, is getting more reps in with Brady.

“I know we’re going to have to build a little bit of comfort with each other just because we don’t practice together as much [under center], but we’ll work on that.”

Bodden gets cornered by media

Though he wasn’t out on the practice field today (at least during the media’s viewing portion at the start), Leigh Bodden was besieged by reporters at his locker, and he obliged them.

The cornerback talked at length about several topics, including coming back from injury and playing both edge and slot corner.

“It was just good to be out there, and I’m thankful,” he said of his Monday night performance. “I thank God that He helped me get back through this injury.

“It’s just a little different,” he continued, talking about the slot differences. “I’m still playing man-to-man if we’re in man [coverage]. The zone’s a little bit different. The only thing is there’s a little more space. You don’t have the sideline to help you [defend]. All in all, it’s defense.”

Technique-wise, does he have to adjust for facing smaller receivers in the slot?

“No, I have to use my advantages. Their advantage is quickness, my advantage is being physical,” Bodden explained. “If those are smaller guys, then that’s what I have to do. If it’s a bigger guy, maybe I’ll use my quickness and some of my strength on the inside.”

Bodden revealed that he hasn’t even looked at the film of the Dolphins game, so focused as he is on New England’s next opponent: QB Philip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates, and the San Diego Chargers.

“He’s an experienced quarterback. [Critics] talk about his release being kind of awkward, but it’s effective. He puts the ball on the money, and [the offensive linemen] give him time. You give him a little bit of space, he’ll put it in there.

“[Gates] gets open, finds the open spaces. He’s not the quickest guy, the fastest guy, but he finds a way. Sometimes you’ll be right there and he can body you [away from the ball], and that’s the basketball player in him, and he has good hands. He’s a tough guy to defend.”

Introducing the newcomers

Linebacker A.J. Edds, who was reluctant to talk with the media last week when the Patriots were preparing for his former team, was more than accommodating today.

“It was almost surreal heading back there [to Miami], going into the visitors’ locker room,” said the former Dolphin, “but that’s the business we’re in ... You have to make the most of it when you have your opportunities and I think most guys in the locker room can attest to that.

“Last week was kind of a quick week,” Edds added, “a little bit of a blur, just trying to get settled in, some of the transition stuff and trying to find my spot, my role within the squad and to try to keep building upon that, picking up the defense and obviously the kicking game as quickly as I can to be able to get out there and contribute as much as I can.”

Donald Thomas finds himself in that same predicament this week. Also a former Dolphin, the offensive lineman was drafted by Miami and played there from 2008-09. He spent last season with Detroit.

“Me and [new right guard] Brian Waters were actually just eating lunch and going over the playbook,” Thomas told reporters. “The good part about it is, this offense is similar to what I was used to running in Miami, so, I’m able to pick up the schemes and some of the wording is the same. I’m not having a hard time, I just have to forget everything I learned in Detroit, because it’s completely different, and put this back into my head.”

Drink responsibly, of course

During his media Q&A session today, quarterback Tom Brady was asked how much he was looking forward to the home opener this weekend, and he offered this message to fans.

“Yeah, start drinking early,” he joked. “It’s a 4:15 game, they have a lot of time to get lubed up, come out here and cheer for the home team.”

Goes without saying, which is why he probably didn’t say it, but if you’re going to imbibe heavily, make sure someone who isn’t is driving you to and from the game.


For details on today’s Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.