With Ted Karras’ status for the New England Patriots uncertain following a knee injury, Bill Belichick expressed confidence in the center’s backup.
James Ferentz, who subbed in for Karras during the third quarter of Sunday’s 28-22 loss to the Houston Texans, likely would start at center this Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs if Karras is unable to play.
The 30-year-old Ferentz has started just one game — at right guard — since entering the NFL in 2014, but Belichick offered a rave review of the veteran’s capabilities during his Tuesday morning conference call.
“James has a lot of experience, even though he doesn’t have a lot of playing time,” the Patriots coach said. “He’s played a lot of football, he’s practiced a lot of football. He’s been with us for a long time. He knows our offense and all the things that go with it — the line calls, the cadence and so forth — extremely well.
“He’s one of the hardest-working players on the team, is very dependable. He’s tough, he communicates well on the offensive line to direct traffic as David Andrews and Ted also do, so we’re very fortunate that we have had multiple people that can do that. That’s a key part of that position.
“But another key part is obviously you have to block somebody on every play. There’s no plays that the center’s not involved in the blocking. Whether it’s run or pass, you can’t run away from the center — he’s right in the middle of the play. So his instincts and awareness and playing strength and, I would say, experience — even though it’s not all in-game experience — are all positives.”
Ferentz, who’s in his third season with the Patriots, is the team’s third option at center behind David Andrews (out for the season with blood clots) and Karras. Karras performed well in Andrews’ stead, playing every offensive snap this season before suffering his injury Sunday.
That injury reportedly is an MCL sprain that is not expected to sideline Karras for more than a week or two.
“(Ferentz) does a great job for us every day,” Belichick said. “He’s backed up Andrews and he’s backed up Karras, and when you put him in there in practice, it’s pretty seamless. But he’s done a great job of helping our defense prepare for our opposing offense and their operation, cadence, snap-counts, mike-points, line-of-scrimmage communication and so forth. And he’s done a great job of that and has been recognized multiple times by our staff for the look he’s given us in practice and the way he’s helped our defense prepare.
“(It) certainly gives us a lot of confidence when he goes in there that he knows what he’s doing and we can depend on him, and that’s a very valuable thing. You hope you don’t need it, but we do now, and I’m glad we have him.”