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Koppen centers attention on leading

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Patriots center Dan Koppen.

You can add center Dan Koppento the growing list of Patriots veterans who've expressed interest in becoming more vocal leaders on this squad.

Following his morning workout at Gillette Stadium, Koppen addressed a gathering of local reporters and TV cameras out on the Patriots' brand new field surface. He was asked the question that has become the standard so far this offseason: Was there a lack of leadership on the 2009 Patriots team?

"I think it's good, but it could be better," Koppen conceded. "People like myself that haven't been as vocal in the past ... maybe I need to step up and be a little more vocal.

"I've been around here and know what's going on. I hope that I've been a leader for a while now. I've always been one of those guys that's just more quiet, go out there and work hard, follow me sort of thing. I may not be the most vocal guy, but maybe that'll change a little bit. Hopefully, I'll start that now."

Koppen insisted, however, that there wasn't anything missing from the Patriots 2009 team, with regard to leadership. But his did point out that the questions started to arise when the losses began piling up.

"Winning takes care of a lot of things. When you're not playing well and you're losing, that's when all this stuff creeps in. We have to stay strong and fight through all that stuff.

He further acknowledged that he's not the first player to declare his intentions to be more of an influence in the New England locker room.

"We've got a few other guys that are ready to take those roles, and I think we'll see that develop in this offseason ... Everybody needs to do their part. Really, that starts with doing your job and coming in here and working hard everyday."

But not every player is in Foxborough at the moment. Koppen's offensive line, restricted free agent and Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins, is currently home in California, reportedly tending to his cattle. Mankins is a former first-round draft choice who has never missed a game in his NFL career and has twice made it to the NFL's all-star game. He received the highest RFA tender from the Patriots ($3.26 million for a five-year veteran) this offeseason, but has not yet signed and is presumably looking for a long-term deal.

When asked about Mankins' absence, Koppen steered as clear as he could of the thorny issue.

"That's between him and the Patriots. It doesn't concern me at all. I'm not negotating the deal on either side. I'm sure the Patriots are doing what they feel is right, and Logan's doing what he feels is right for him and his family. Whatever he decides and gets done is his business.

"I spoke to him a few times because he's my friend, to see how he's doing," Koppen added. "He's doing good."

The player who normally lines up to Koppen's right, guard Stephen Neal, recently re-signed with the Patriots after contemplating retirement. Koppen said he was "happy" and that the team was "lucky" to have Neal back, because he appreciates the uncommon consistency that the Patriots have enjoyed at the o-line position over the past decade.

"I do. It's nice to know coming into the season, but it's not something we can rely on. We really have to recommit ourselves, starting now in the offseason. You want to get into a rhythm and develop a trust with people ... it's hard to stay healthy in this league."

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