Dan Connolly Comfortable While Filling In for Patriots’ High-Profile Offensive Linemen

FOXBORO, Mass. — Dan Connolly has been through this plenty of times in the past.

Just last season alone, he was forced to fill in for left guard Logan Mankins and right guard Stephen Neal, and Connolly did a fine job at both positions. The Patriots have the same expectations that he'll perform well enough to take over for center Dan Koppen as he recovers from a broken ankle that will reportedly sideline him for about two months.

Connolly, in turn, wasn't fazed by his new role by any stretch.

"I always prepare myself for any position," Connolly said. "Even if I'm starting at guard, at any point I need to have that versatility to play any position, so I'll always prepare to play anything. I was ready when the time came the other night for that."

Connolly, who signed with the Patriots in 2007, has been New England's backup center throughout a majority of his time in Foxboro. Prior to Monday's season opener in Miami, Connolly was taking snaps at center during pregame warmups.

He's always been a versatile player — head coach Bill Belichick even smirked Wednesday while bringing up his kick return ability — and it started on day one of his NFL career. Connolly played tackle at Southeast Missouri State and had to adjust from the small-school atmosphere into life in the pros, and he transitioned to an interior lineman in the process.

"I feel like that's why I'm here," Connolly said. "I showed versatility early on, and I feel like that's why I was kept around because I can play multiple positions."

The most notable differences between guard and center involve the little things. He'll have to be more vocal with calls at the line while noting blocking assignments, and he'll need to develop a little more chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady with the snap exchange. Those things can be ironed out this week at practice.

"I think we've put in a lot of time as it is with our film study and our practice," Connolly said. "I know we're going to have to build a little bit of comfort with each other just because we don't practice together as much, but we'll just work on that."

Yardbarker

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