The continued search for veteran depth along the offensive line turned to another new face Tuesday afternoon as newly signed veteran guard Corbin Lacina took the field for the first time in a Patriots uniform.
The 32-year-old former Vikings, Panthers and Bills starter, worked out with the second offensive line on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium at left guard and adds nine years of experience to the New England roster. Having started 79-of-121 career games played, including all 16 games a year ago in Minnesota, the 6-4, 314-pound Lacina automatically jumps into the mix for a roster spot on the interior line.
"Corbin is a veteran player," Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick said of guard who came into the league as a sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1993. "He has a lot of playing experience playing guard in the league. He is a strong and physical guy. I have never been with him or coached him personally, so we have to wait and see how his style of play fits with our system and our offense. I think he brings experience and playing strength and an aggressive attitude to the position."
Lacina admitted he was surprised at his own situation being without work so late in the offseason, but is just happy to have finally found a place to battle for a job.
"It was a little frustrating," Lacina said of the offseason waiting. "We were the No. 1 rushing offense and the No. 2 offense in the league and to be a part of that and start 16 games, it was a little frustrating. But nothing surprises me in this league. There are still guys on the street, but the bottom line is I'm here now and I'm looking forward to contributing to this team."
Lacina, who said he can play guard on either side or center, joins veteran guards Joe Andruzzi, Mike Compton and Bill Conaty, as well as younger players Russ Hochstein and Jason Esposito in the mix along the interior line. Damien Woody and rookie Dan Koppen are also in the mix the team's two true centers.
Belichick admitted that the retirement of guard Brenden Stai was a factor in the team having to go back into the market for another veteran interior offensive lineman.
"I think there are a lot of factors involved," Belichick said. "The retirement could be one. We are always looking for depth at the positions."
The coach also joked that the team now check's into the retirement plans of all veteran offensive linemen that it signs, thanks to three separate retirements at the spot in three seasons.
"We now make that as part of the questionnaire for all offensive linemen, especially guards," Belichick said with a smile. "Honestly, we have done that the last couple of years too. After it happened the second time, we said, 'Well maybe we are not making it clear enough.' Talking to Brenden, we absolutely put that on the table to him and there was not even a quiver with it. Again, things change. There aren't any absolutes in this business. Sometimes you're from day-to-day, from week-to-week, from month-to-month, they don't stay the same."
Lacina said he has no plans to retire and was a bit surprised so many people have asked him that question in his first day on the job.
"I'll tell you what, a lot of people have said that," Lacina said. "They haven't had much luck. I don't know if the locker they gave me is a bad luck locker or the number they gave me is a bad luck number. Some guys have rolled through here, three in three years. That's the first thing he asked me, 'You are not going to retire are you?' No, I'm here to play"
Ironically Lacina wore a white number 69 jersey in his first practice Tuesday, the same number worn by Stai in his short stay in New England.
Womack in and out
Injured running back Antwoine Womack returned to the practice field briefly Tuesday afternoon. The second-year player out of Virginia began practice in full pads with the rest of his teammates and actually took some reps with the scout team at fullback, before pulling himself out of practice action and going to the sidelines with the trainers. Out of pads, Womack continued to do some various running and drills on the sidelines, but appeared noticeably uncomfortable and never put the pads back on or got back on the field for the remainder of practice.
Womack had missed all of training camp with an undisclosed injury. The 2002 seventh-round pick missed the entire season a year ago on PUP and injured reserve as he recovered from a knee injury suffered in a postseason bowl game.
Chas Gessner, Damien Woody, David Givens, Gene Mruczkowski, Kenyatta Jones, Tully Banta-Cain and Bethel Johnson all sat out today's practice. … Stephen Neal attended practice for the second-straight day. Neal is recovering from shoulder surgery and spent much of the practice on the sidelines catching shot gun snaps from Woody. … David Patten had a noticeably productive practice, seeming to catch every pass that was thrown in his direction. … The offense continued to work on a lot of two tight end sets in the offensive segments, something it did often throughout training camp. … The first offensive line consisted of Matt Light at left tackle, Mike Compton at left guard, rookie Dan Koppen in for the injured Woody at center, Joe Andruzzi at right guard and Adrian Klemm moving back ahead of Tom Ashworth at right tackle. … In another interesting note along the offensive line, Ken Kocher took reps with the backups and scout teams at left guard. The first-year former practice squad player had spent all his time in New England as a nose tackle/defensive lineman, but appears to be getting a look on the other side of the ball.