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Vollmer working his way back; Fri. notes

New England's starting right tackle hopes to overcome a back injury and return to the lineup this Sunday. Plus, more news and notes from Thursday, September 15 at Gillette Stadium.

Throughout his college career at Houston, Sebastian Vollmer dealt with back problems. Now in his third NFL season, all with the Patriots, he has been relatively injury-free in that regard, until recently.

Vollmer missed the final preseason game and the season opener against Miami, as well as the practices in between, but has suited up every day this week and is giving it his all to be on the field Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.

"It feels good getting back out there," he told reporters at his locker today.

"We'll have to see about [Sunday]. So far, I'm able to practice and do what I can trying to get better. When it feels right, it feels right."

When asked if the current injury is related to his previous ailment, he would only say, "[I'm] only looking forward. It's day-to-day … we'll see what happens."

Vollmer insisted, though, that he doesn't feel any pressure to return sooner than he's ready because of the rash of injuries the Patriots have suffered along the offensive line of late.

"I think everybody always does everything possible to get back as soon as possible," he observed. "Other factors may play a role, though, and you can't speed it up."

He's been impressed with the play of rookie Nate Solder, and maintained he wasn't surprised that the o-line has been able to hold up under adverse conditions.

"It's good. I don't think surprised is the right word. You expect certain things, and [Solder] stepped up to the plate and had a good game.

"I think [the versatility of the o-line] is really good. Obviously, we always prepare for worst-case scenarios, like we do in practice and in training camp, everyone practices every position. You try and prepare for those situations so that when people step in, they do good."

The latest example came in the season opener, when center Dan Koppen was lost with a fibula injury. Backup Dan Connolly stepped in and performed without a hitch.

"You never want to see anyone get hurt, on our team or the opponent's team," Vollmer remarked. "He's been here for a long time and played some good ball. It's tough, but then the other Dan stepped in, played good, and that's what it's all about. But obviously, as a friend, you don't want to see that."

Wilfork expects a charge from San Diego

There's an expression the Patriots like to use around here when playing a non-AFC East opponent whom they face on a regular basis.

"It's like being back in the division this week."

Bill Belichick tossed that line out earlier this week and co-captain Vince Wilfork echoed those sentiments today.

"Yeah, it seems like we play these guys almost every year. They're a hell of a ball club. Every game is a battle against them. It seems like it's always going down to the wire. They're familiar with us, we know them a little bit … it's going to come down to execution. It's going to be another battle."

Like last season, when the Patriots traveled to the West Coast and took advantage of several Charger miscues to grab a sizeable early lead. From then on, however, the top-ranked San Diego offense crawled back and the stingy defense held fast to make it a nail-biter at the end. The Patriots were lucky to squeeze out a victory.

The Chargers' notoriously slow starts to the season are a factor the Patriots are mindful of, but aren't taking for granted.

"I know one thing: the Chargers are always around at the end of the year," stated Wilfork. "They always seem to come on at the last minute and peak at the right time. They win a lot of ball games later in the year when you have to win. One of the things they want to do is start fast, and that's probably what's been keeping them from being one of the top teams in the NFL. I'm pretty sure last year they were the top offense and one of the top defenses. But we have a chance to see a really good football team this week."

For details on today's Patriots practice, please visit the PFW blog.

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