FOXBORO, Mass. — If Tommy Kelly was a boxer, he’d be a heavyweight. Then again, he falls under essentially that same category as a football player.
Kelly, who is 6-foot-6 and 310-pounds — in case you were wondering, knows that at age 32 he’s now more vulnerable to injury. He also knows that in order to be effective for the Patriots this season he’ll need to be durable, just like any heavyweight prizefighter.
“This is football. It’s like boxing, your toughness is one of the biggest things you need in this game,” Kelly said after practice on Monday. “If you’re not tough or durable it’s going to weed you out real quick on this level. I’m just trying to take care of my body as best I can, because this game will wear you down real, real, real quick.“
In nine NFL seasons, Kelly has missed just 15 of a possible 144 games, and he’s played in all 16 games in each of the last five seasons. The former Oakland Raiders defensive tackle is hoping to repeat the feat for a sixth straight season, especially since he knows how valuable the line is to any defense.
“I think that’s the starting point for any great defense,” Kelly said of the guys up front. “Just like the starting point of any great offense is the O line. If you’ve got a great offensive line then you have something to build from. If you have a great defensive line then you put yourself in a good position — second and long situation — or put yourself in a situation where you don’t have to blitz all the time. So, anytime you can have a real good defensive line that’s a benchmark. If you look at all the defenses that been great in this game they all have A-1 defensive line.”
With Vince Wilfork and Chandler Jones already well established on the defensive line, the Patriots are expecting big things up front this season. But adding a healthy Kelly to the mix can only go to make the unit even better this year.