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Leigh Bodden: ‘Thankful’ to be back on the field

09.14.11 at 11:25 pm ET

FOXBORO — While it was a memorable season opener for the Patriots for several reasons, the Monday night win over the Dolphins held some extra significance for veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden.

Bodden, who was on the shelf for the entire 2010 season with a shoulder injury, was seeing his first regular-season action in 21 months. He ended the game with three tackles and one pass defensed, and while it was a fairly routine game for him statistically, just the opportunity to be back out on the field again was a blessing for the Duquesne product.

‘€œIt was just good to be out there — I’€™m just thankful,’€ Bodden said. ‘€œI thank God that He helped me get back through this injury and the hard work that I put in to get back, that’€™s all you really can do and hope for.’€

Bodden played 66 of the 77 defensive snaps on Monday, despite the fact that he has been hobbled throughout camp and the preseason, fighting through thumb and back injuries, the latter of which left him out of Wednesday’€™s practice.

‘€œI’€™m doing pretty good,’€ added the 29-year-old. ‘€œNot as good as I want to be, but that’€™s Week One for everybody, I feel like you’€™re going to need improvement. I’€™m just working week to week.’€

Bodden’€™s role has changed since he was last on the field on a regular basis. First and foremost, there were plenty of personnel moves for New England at the corner position: As a rookie, fellow Devin McCourty stepped forward to become a star, while Kyle Arrington became a regular part of the rotation and Darius Butler was released before the start of the 2011 season. And in this year’€™s draft, they added Ras-I Dowling, as well as Antuwan Molden shortly before the start of the season.

The moves also meant changes for Bodden. At the conclusion of the 2009 season, he spent more time on the outside, but on Monday night against the Dolphins, he was in the slot for much of the evening covering Miami’€™s Davone Bess. When it comes to Bodden (and the rest of the Patriots’€™) defense of Bess on Monday, the numbers are a bit deceiving — he had five catches for 92 yards, but most of that came in garbage time (he had two catches for 37 yards through the first three quarters).

Meanwhile, it was Dowling started and saw significant time on the outside. Bodden was impressed with what he saw from the rookie.

‘€œRas-I, I think he played well for his first game. We both need to improve,’€ he said. ‘€œI’€™m not a fortune teller or nothing, but as long as he works like he’€™s been working, he’€™ll get better as the year goes along, and that’€™s all anybody wants to do is to get better from week to week.’€

As for Bodden, the transition from the outside to the slot be difficult one, especially for a veteran corner.

‘€œIt’€™s a little different,’€ he confessed Wednesday. :I’€™m still playing man to man. If we’€™re in a zone, it’€™s a little bit different. But the only thing is there’€™s more space — you don’€™t have the sideline to help you.’€

Bodden said that you can combat that with a little extra physicality. Because the slot receiver is usually a smaller guy (think Wes Welker more than Larry Fitzgerald), that’€™s a tradeoff the 6-foot-1, 193-pounder is willing to make.

‘€œTheir advantage is quickness, my advantage is I want to be physical,’€ Bodden said. ‘€œIf they’€™re smaller guys, that’€™s what I’€™m going to have to do. If it’€™s a bigger guy, maybe I use my quickness.’€

‘€œIt kind of all depends. But I would like to be physical, like I said, because that’€™s my advantage over the smaller guys. It really doesn’€™t have to do with the space. It’€™s really about the defense and just being physical and disrupting the route.’€

Read More: Antuwan Molden, Davone Bess, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington



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