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Players out of position make Pats more versatile

Head coach Bill Belichick discusses the added roles taken on by various players during the Patriots' opening day victory over the New York Jets.

In order to find the details, sometimes you've got to look for the little wrinkles.

Take this past Sunday's Patriots-Jets matchup, for example.

Going into that game, New England was carrying only two tight ends and one fullback. Throughout the afternoon, the Pats found themselves in short-yardage or goal line situations, where they needed extra blockers and potential receivers to keep the Jets defense guessing as to whether they'd run or pass.

Several times, the Patriots employed offensive lineman Ryan O'Callaghan at tight end. Why was that?

"As a tackle, you play on the end of the line anyway. So, that puts him closer to that position. I'm not saying he's a guy we'd want to feature in the passing game, but [in that position] he's an eligible receiver," head coach Bill Belichick acknowledged in his mid-day press conference Monday.

"Certainly he's more of a blocker than he is a receiver, but could we have plays that we could throw him the ball, I suppose we could."

Belichick was circumspect when asked if we'd be seeing O'Callaghan in that role again.

"Maybe, maybe not. We'll evaluate that on a week-to-week basis."

Another unusual personnel formation included linebackers Mike Vrabel and Junior Seau at tight end and fullback, respectively. It happened late in the fourth quarter, when starting fullback Heath Evans lined up as the tailback on what would turn out to be his one-yard plunge into the end zone, making the score 38-14.

Vrabel, as the tight end on the left side, had to be respected by Jets defenders as a player who's caught numerous TD passes in similar situations for the Patriots. Seau, however, had never been seen in the New England backfield before. What prompted that move?

"Really, he told me that he wanted to line up at fullback long before I told him," Belichick revealed.

"Junior and I talked about that last year. This spring, we were talking about goal line, I think he actually brought it up, that he had played fullback, and if we needed a fullback on the goal line, he was available."

Having a non-fullback at the fullback spot is nothing new for the Patriots under Belichick. Richard Seymour has done it, so has versatile O-lineman Russ Hochstein.

Aside from the fact that Seau volunteered for duty, there's a more strategic reason for having him back there.

"I think Junior's kind of a natural fit because that's what the linebacker has to do on defense," the head coach explained. "You've got to see the hole on the goal line and get in it. And that's sort of what the fullback has to do. He's trying to see the hole and get in it, and probably meet the linebacker there."

Which is exactly what happened, as Seau leapt into an opening on the right side, following closely by Evans, who easily made it into the end zone thanks to Seau's snowplow-like effort.

Back to O'Callaghan for a moment.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the 6-7, 330-pounder does see a ball thrown his way at some point. Like Tom Ashworth, the former Patriots lineman who also wore O'Callaghan's number 68, and who actually caught a touchdown pass from Tom Brady once during a game, does O'Callaghan have hands?

"He's got two, yeah," Belichick replied with a sly grin. "They're not game-tested yet."

Details, details.

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