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From the Hart: A two-Dan competition

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Heck, the running joke is that the only butt that Tom Brady prefers is the one that belongs to his supermodel wife.

But for the first time since his rookie year, Koppen enters the summer competing for a job rather than as the presumed starting center in New England.

The veteran former Pro Bowler re-signed with the Patriots after missing all but opener last season with a broken leg. In his absence, jack-of-all trades interior back Dan Connolly started 11 of 13 games played at center.

Also a free age this spring, Connolly re-signed with the Patriots on a reported three-year, $9.7 million contract that included a $3.25 million signing bonus.

Koppen's new two-year deal included only a $350,000 signing bonus.

Connolly is also three years younger than Koppen.

So on paper, it looks like Connolly rather than Koppen may actually be the frontrunner for the starting center job. Add in the fact that Koppen has seemingly no position flexibility at his size and this point in his career, and the veteran is seemingly facing a unique competition this summer.

But Koppen, who is at full health right now, doesn't see it that way.

"I think there is always competition," Koppen responded when asked about competing with Connolly. "I think you approach every year, there are always guys coming in and trying to take your job. My approach this year is not going to be any different than last year. No one's job is safe on this team, maybe minus 12 (Tom Brady), but you never know around here. You just have to go out and compete and work hard. Show the coaches that you can be reliable and dependable and they know than you know what to do, be in the right spot and just go. But there is always competition, that's what the coaches stress to us."

Even though he may be in a fight for his old job, and could have pursued opportunities elsewhere as a free agent this spring, there is nowhere that Koppen would rather be at this point in his 10-year NFL career.

"I'm really grateful to be back and to be able to play here under these coaches and with this team. This is what I know." Koppen said after Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I didn't want to go anywhere. Thank goodness it worked out that I got the opportunity to come back.

"This is where I want to be. This is what I know. I'm just excited to play this year."

Now he just has to earn a job.

What do you think about the competition at center and along the offensive line in general? Who do you will win the starting job at center? Let us know with a comment below!

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