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Knowing your left from your right

08.04.09 at 2:26 pm ET
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FOXBOROUGH – It’s tough enough for a rookie to learn his plays in training camp. Asking him to play two different positions takes it to another level.

But Bill Belichick and the Patriots personnel staff saw something special in 6-foot-8 offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer around the time of the draft and figured if any first-year player is capable of learning, it’s the second round pick out of the University of Houston.

Vollmer is capable of playing left and right tackle, and has been playing both in mini-camp and this training camp for the Patriots.

“Sebastian looks like a very flexible player,” Belichick said this week. “He played mostly left tackle in college at Houston and when he went to the All Star games he played right tackle. We’€™ve worked him on both sides. In the spring workouts, he worked out at both sides and looked equally comfortable. So I would say from a technique standpoint and from a talent standpoint, it’€™s rare that you have guys that are big enough and physical enough, which you need to play on the right side, that are then athletic enough and can handle some of the pass rushers that are over there on the left side.

“I don’t even think about that right now,” Vollmer said on Tuesday. “Wherever coach puts me, I’m trying to learn that position, trying to embrace the techniques and go from there. Whatever happens in two weeks, we’ll see what happens but for right now, I’m worried about the next practice and getting better by then.”

At 6-8 and 315 pounds, clearly Vollmer has the size to play tackle. Right now, he’s adjusting to the quickness of NFL defensive linemen and the footwork necessary to not get burned, especially protecting a quarterback’s blind side.

When Belichick and his staff identified Vollmer, they knew his versatility was something that set him apart, as did his intellect.

“You have another group of players who might conceptually be able to play both but maybe their mentality or their comfort level of playing one or the other eliminates something, having a true swing tackle, that’€™s a tough position to find,” Belichick said. “To find a player that’€™s athletically able to do it and ‘€” on top of that ‘€” whose technique allows him to flip from one side to the other, from odd to even on the protections and odd to even in the plays.

“I know it doesn’€™t sound that hard, but when you are flipping back and forth from one side to the other and you hear the play call; one time you are on the strong side and one time you are on the weak side. It’€™s the same play, but it sounds different to you depending on what position you’€™re playing. There’€™s an ability to do that and it’€™s just not something that a players comfortable in doing. But Sebastian seems very good at that to this point. As we go and keep adding more stuff, we’€™ll see how it goes.”

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