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Family, football top priorities for new captain

When the Patriots captains took the field for the coin toss last weekend, there was an unannounced addition to that group of ambassadors. Tight end Daniel Graham, a five-year veteran, is the newest member of that elite corps.

For Daniel Graham, whose father Tom played linebacker for seven seasons in the NFL, football has always been a family affair. His twin brother Josh played college football at North Carolina while he was at the University of Colorado, and one of his older brothers, Phillip played for Colorado State.

But when another of Graham's brothers, Jason, was diagnosed with kidney disease, and the family was informed that Jason would need a transplant, the choice between football and family was an easy one.

"You know, this is what I do for a living," said Graham on Wednesday. "Outside of football I have, I would say, a bigger role in life."

As it turned out, Graham's mother Marilyn was the best donor, but he was ready to give up his kidney and even his NFL career for his big brother.

"This is my brother I was talking about. If it's a matter of life and death, I can give up what I do for a living. I can find something else to do," he said. "This is how I was feeling: If it came down to it, I was ready to do it. My mom was a match, so we finally got the surgery done."

The transplant, which was done in St. Louis on Tuesday, was successful and Graham was able to be there.

"My brother's doing fine. They had surgery [Tuesday]," said Graham, adding that he was composed during the surgery and simply relieved it was being taken care of. "My mother and my brother are doing fine."

If Graham's commitment to the Patriots is as whole-hearted as his commitment to his family, than it's easy to see why coachBill Belichick added him to the team's list of captains before the Lions game.

"First, [Belichick] asked me how my family was doing and then he [told me I'd been named a captain]," said Graham. "It really [was] not a goal of mine. My play, I let speak for me. I hope a lot of younger guys look up to how I play and what I do off the field, but when coach came up and wanted to added me onto the captains crew, it was an honor to me, I told him that."

But why add a captain so late in the season, when all the other captains were elected before opening day?

"Dan's leadership, his toughness, both mental and physical toughness, on and off the field," said Belichick on Wednesday. "His dependability. I think the respect that he has from everybody in this organization -- all his peers, coaches and everybody connected with the team. I just thought it was the right thing to do."

Safety Rodney Harrison is the only other captain who was added mid-year, and that was back in 2003. The other captains include: Tom Brady, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Larry Izzo, Richard Seymour and Mike Vrabel.

"The captains of this team pretty much represent the heart and soul of what this team's about. For him to join [that group], says a lot about him, because he's a stand-up guy," said new starter Tully Banta-Cain. "He's not much of a vocal guy. He kind of leads by example. And off the field he's a real professional."

Graham agreed that his style is to lead by example.

"I'm here at 6:30 every morning," he said, admitting he believes his work ethic had a lot to do with his addition to the list of captains. "I work hard on the field, off the field, in the weight room and in the training room. A lot of the younger guys can see that."

"I've been through a lot with Dan," said Brady on Wednesday. "I know of all the veterans on this team, he is one of the core guys we have, so I am very excited for him. He certainly is deserving. He has been deserving for quite some time."

In 1972, Daniel Graham's father, linebacker Tom Graham, became the first rookie in Broncos history to lead the team in tackles when he tied Lyle Alzado for the team high. In 2004, D.J. Williams became the second. … The Patriots held practice inside the Dana Farber Field House for the second day in a row on Thursday. The indoor facility was quite warm, with portable heaters going, possibly in hopes of replicating the kind of temperatures expected for Sunday's game in Miami. is predicting a high of 77 degrees. … The players wore shorts/sweats, shells and helmets to practice, and everyone except safety Rodney Harrison (Out) was in attendance during the portion available to the media. … Newly acquired veteran defensive back Ray Mickens was seen stretching with members of the starting secondary including Asante Samuel and Chad Scott.

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