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Offseason a weighty issue for Nate Solder

04.19.12 at 4:18 pm ET

Nate Solder talks with reporters Thursday afternoon at Gillette Stadium. ( photo)

FOXBORO — Prior to Nate Solder’s Q&A with reporters on Thursday afternoon, stools were offered up to some members of the media — namely cameramen — who might have wanted a better view of the Patriots’ offensive lineman. Solder joked about whether or not he’d need one for the session.

“Maybe a hole to stand in,” the 6-foot-8 tackle quipped.

This was stated several times over the course of his rookie season, but it bears repeating: Solder is a big dude. One of the tallest players in the history of the franchise, the Colorado product, who now weighs “about 310 pounds” by his estimation, said adding some bulk to his frame is one of his goals when it comes to preparing for a second season in the NFL.

“I’d like to get bigger, stronger — maybe taller,” said Solder with a laugh, before adding that he could see himself around 320 or 330 pounds. “Understand the playbook better — going into my second year, I want to continue to progress and get better.”

He said Thursday he’s always struggled to gain weight — hence the need for four or five meals a day.

“It’s not hard to gain a lot of weight that’s not going to help you play football,” explained Solder in between workouts at Gillette Stadium. “So when I say it’s hard to gain weight, it’s hard because it takes a lot in the weight room. You’ve got to be lifting hard because you want to gain muscle and you want to stay fast, you want to stay flexible and those sorts of things, too.

“I think a lot of it comes down to your diet, how you’re eating. I’m just eating four or five meals a day, protein shakes in between. So that’s sort of what goes into it.”

Solder, who played 1,044 offensive snaps last season (according to Pro Football Focus, tops among any of New England’s rookies last year), played both right and left tackle last season. During the regular season, he started 11 games at right tackle and one at left tackle, and registered three more starts at right tackle in the postseason.

He could be in for even more work in 2012 if veteran left tackle Matt Light decides to retire. Asked Thursday if he sees his role potentially changing if Light does decide to call it a career, Solder said he’s ready for pretty much anything.

“I don’t know what my role is going to be,” Solder said when asked about Light and his future. “Right now, my mindset is to get better. There’s a lot I have to improve on, and that’s what I’m going to work on right now and improve on.”

Because of that experience, Solder figures to have more on his plate going forward if Light does decide to retire. On Thursday during a break from workouts at Gillette Stadium, he was effusive in his praise of Light, saying the former All-Pro has played a large role in his professional development.

“Matt’s been great. He helps me to continue to develop,” Solder said. “He knows a lot about the game. He has a ton of experience. It’s been really good having him here.”

Solder said there’s a big difference between where he is right now and where he was at this time last year, both physically and mentally.

“It’s much different. This time last year, I didn’t know where I was going to be. I didn’t know how to train. I hadn’t played a single snap in an NFL game. I didn’t know who any of my teammates were going to be,” he said. “Now, there’s some things that are kind of answered, and places I can focus my energy on some of the things I can improve on.

“Looking back, it flew by, but I think when you’re in the middle of it, you’re swimming to stay afloat at times.”

Here are a few other highlights from the Q&A:

On the confidence level heading into his second season: “Well, it’s certainly nice to be able to focus, where before, it was a broad range of things that I had to prepare for. Now, there are select things. I think it helps your confidence. But your confidence is really going to be built up in camp and playing well, and I’m just building toward that.”

Impression on the way this week has started off: “We’re jumping right into it. It’s high-energy: difficult runs, difficult lifts. Getting right after it.”

On being treated differently as a veteran: “There was at times a little bit of, ‘You’re the new guy.’ I’m still the new guy. I don’t have the experience. But I feel like I have some respect of some of the guys. We’ve had some tough games together, and been a part of that with them. It’s going to be a different set of guys this year in places, so it’s just building that camaraderie again, I guess.”

On getting back to the Super Bowl: “You know, I think it’s a building process. You never know who the teams are going to be at this point. So it’s just putting all the parts together, me doing my part, getting better. And yeah, I think that’s the goal, but we’re a long ways away, I guess.

Have you watched Super Bowl XLVI? “Yeah. For me, there were a lot of emotions in that game. It was a very high-energy game. Not to get too caught up on it, because it’s in the past, but it was good to go back and just — as you would any game — evaluate it objectively: what you did good, what you did bad, what you can improve on.”

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