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Catching up with Dan Koppen: Patriots center happy to be back in the fold

05.27.12 at 8:41 pm ET

Imagine running three miles of a marathon, writing two pages of a 10-page presentation, or (even worse) your car breaking down 100 miles into cross-country trip. That’s the equivalent of what happened to Dan Koppen in last season’s regular-season opener against the Dolphins. The center, now entering his 10th season with the Patriots, broke his ankle, ending his season before it really began in Miami.

Perhaps more than any other sport, football implores as much on the field as it does off. The offseasons are rife with minicamps, organized team activities, and of course, training camp. And getting carted off the field after getting through the mental and physical grind of the summer was extremely disappointing for Koppen.

“It’s tough,” Koppen said of his experience rehabbing his ankle last season. “It makes you appreciate things a lot more, especially sitting around watching after putting everything in the offseason. It makes you have a better appreciation for your job and being around the guys.”

The Patriots didn’t miss a beat in Koppen’s absence, as Dan Connolly had a strong season, proving to be more than a capable stop-gap across the offensive line. Connolly’s performance, combined with Koppen’s unrestricted free agent status, made for some speculation regarding the Boston College product’s future in Foxboro. The Patriots and Koppen put any separation chatter to rest and quickly came to terms on a two-year deal reportedly worth up to $6 million.

“I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” Koppen said. “Thank goodness it did work out. It’s probably a pain moving the whole family and getting all that stuff squared away. So it’s a good feeling. This is where I want to be.

“You get the opportunity to win,” Koppen said of the advantages of playing in New England. “It’s not an easy place to play. But if you do your job, are where you’re supposed to be, and just go out there and give everything you have, then they really can’t much ask for much more. And it’s all about winning.”

Before last season, Koppen had missed more than one game just once in his career —  in 2005 when he missed six games because of a shoulder injury, ironically suffered against the Dolphins as well. As proven in the past, injuries do not preclude a starting job from changing hands with the Patriots. But Koppen is more than okay competing for his post under center. After watching his teammates advance to the Super Bowl last season, he seemed eager to earn his keep within the roster and stressed the importance of a diligent team attitude this summer in order to finish the job this time around.

“There’s always a competition,” Koppen said. “You approach every year like there’s always guys coming in trying to take your job. My approach this year is not going to any different then last year. No one’s job is safe on this team — maybe minus No. 12 — but you never know around here.

“If you’re going to stay still everyone around you is just going to get better,” he said. “All the 31 other teams right now, we’re all at the same point. It’s just how hard we work now that’s going to really determine how we do this year.”

Read More: Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen,



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