FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wasn't willing to gamble on the uncertainty over center Dan Koppen's fibula injury.
Koppen's 2011 season came to an end Wednesday when the Patriots placed him on injured reserve. He broke his fibula in the first half against the Dolphins, and reports indicated he could miss two or three months.
However, there's no perfect way to set a timetable for a high ankle injury. They can linger for an entire season, and even though it appeared possible that Koppen could return in time for December, the Patriots showed they weren't comfortable with tying up that roster spot for the long haul.
It might have had something to do with the team's overall injury situation after the Patriots were banged up badly against the Chargers. They practiced without five players Wednesday — tight end Aaron Hernandez, safety Patrick Chung, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerback Kyle Arrington and defensive lineman Mike Wright — which was their highest total of absentees since their first practice of the regular season. Also, after ending Koppen's season, the Patriots added defensive back Phillip Adams, and that could be an indication the Pats might be preparing for a week without Chung or Arrington.
Dan Connolly has played well in Koppen's absence, though that shouldn't surprise anyone after Connolly filled in for Logan Mankins and Steve Neal in 2010. Connolly's backup at center will be Ryan Wendell, who is still recovering from a calf injury.
Initially, there was some hope out of Foxboro that Koppen could return in time for the end of the season, but other factors swayed those feelings in the other direction Wednesday.