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QB Tom Brady talks about butts 08.14.14 at 7:30 am ET
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Tom Brady has a lot of respect for his centers.

The quarterback talked Wednesday about just how much he’s appreciated the work of Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell over the last few seasons and the chemistry he’s enjoyed with them. The result was an out-of-context smirkfest.

“I’€™ve got confidence in those guys,” Brady said. “I love both Dan and Wendy. I love those guys. They work so hard.

“The center-quarterback relationship is a pretty special one. I’€™ve got my hands on their butts probably more than their wives, so it’€™s a pretty unique trust and relationship you have.”

Clearly, we’ve reached the dog days of training camp.

Read More: Dan Connolly, ryan wendell, Tom Brady,
Centers of attention: Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Bryan Stork all in spotlight 08.04.14 at 7:00 am ET
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One of the more interesting positions over the first week-plus of Patriots training camp has been center, where Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly and Bryan Stork have all gotten plenty of work.

Wendell enters the 2014 season as the incumbent, having served as the No. 1 center for the better part of the last two years. A favorite of both Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, he’s played almost more snaps than anyone else in the league since the start of the 2012 season.

It’s been a long journey for the 28-year-old Wendell, who signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008, got his first series of starts along the interior in 2010 and moved into the starting center position in 2012.

“When Ryan first got here, he couldn’€™€™t even make our practice squad,” Belichick recalled earlier this summer when asked about the 6-foot-2, 300-pound Wendell. “He was a camp player [and] wasn’€™€™t on our practice squad at the beginning of the season. We brought him back to the practice squad during his first year.

“€œI’€™€™d say it’€™€™s been about as big of a progression as really any player could have, any player I’€™€™ve had or any player could have — maybe Steve Neal. But it’€™€™s the same kind of thing — guys [who] weren’€™€™t even on the practice squad that eventually became starting players in the NFL. That’€™€™s a pretty big jump. It took a lot of time, a lot of hard work and he’€™€™s certainly done his part and worked hard. He’€™€™s a very smart football player, and doesn’€™€™t have many missed assignments.”

At the same time, he figured to be pushed by the 23-year-old Stork, a rookie with a peerless college resume — he won the Rimington Award last year as the best center in college football in 2013, and was a captain for the national champions from Florida State.

“Bryan was a pretty durable player,” Patriots personnel chief Nick Caserio said of the 6-foot-4, 313-pound Stork, who started 41 games as a collegian with the Seminoles. “He played a lot of football. He played against good people.

“Smart guy, tough, good playing strength, had a good playing style, good demeanor. He did a lot of good things, and there was a lot to like about him.”

However, one player who has really emerged has been the 31-year-old Connolly, a part-time center who has really made his bones the last few years as the starting right guard. When Stork went down with an undisclosed injury — he’s missed three of the eight practices this summer as a result — the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Connolly stepped in as the backup, while Marcus Cannon took many of the reps at right guard. The move appeared to be a chance to take some of the reps from Wendell and give the starter a bit of a rest. But to this point, Connolly has performed well, and has added some more spice to the mix.
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Read More: Bill Belichick, Bryan Stork, Dan Connolly, Jon Halapio
Takeaways from our Thursday morning talk with Logan Mankins 04.17.14 at 1:49 pm ET
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FOXBORO — In addition to his dismissal of Brandon Spikes, here are three things we gleaned from our Thursday morning chat with Logan Mankins.

1. He sounds optimistic about the upcoming transition period for the New England offensive line.

For the first time since shortly after the earth cooled, Dante Scarnecchia will not be coaching the Patriots offensive line. It’€™ll be an interesting stretch for Mankins, who will be losing the only position coach he’€™s known at the professional level. However, Mankins said new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo “seems like a great guy, and I look forward to working with him.”

“€œIt’€™s going to be a big change,”€ Mankins said when asked about moving on from Scarnecchia. “I was lucky enough to have him for nine seasons. I wish that could have continued. But he put in his time and he earned the right to retire. Last time I talked to him, he was enjoying life right now and he’€™s staying busy. But it will be a lot different. That’€™s the only o-line coach I’ve known for quite a while now, so, it’€™ll be a bit of a change.”

What does Mankins want out of a new coach?

“€œPersonally, I just want a coach that’€™s fair, he’€™s going to treat everyone the same — there’€™s no one on a pedestal,”€ he said. “I think I learned to appreciate that from Dante. He was a hard coach, but he was a fair coach. We always knew he had our backs. He demanded a lot of us, but I think that’€™s what made a lot of us good players. That’€™s why he was such a successful coach and lasted so long.”

2. He’€™s been working a lot with fellow guard Dan Connolly this offseason.

According to Mankins, for the first time in several years, both Mankins and Connolly aren’t dealing with any sort of offseason rehab for surgery. As a result, the two have been working together in the area to ‘€œget after it’€ for a few hours every morning. He said

“€œIt’€™s been a good partnership right now,”€ Mankins said. “In years past, I had surgeries, he had surgeries, we had the whole lockout thing. We used to (train) a long time ago until certain things changed that, so this year was nice to get back together.

“€œWe meet every morning at a certain time and get after it for a few hours then go home. It’€™s always nice to have someone to work out with, especially at your own position, that you are working on the same things,” Mankins said. “We’€™ve been pushing each other and it’€™s been working out well.”

Right now, Mankins said it’€™s just “€œthe big boys throwing around weights.”€ That will transition to the start of the offseason program on Monday, where coaches can get involved. At that point, it’€™s expected that more cardio will be worked into the mix. Mankins said center Ryan Wendell has also been present since re-signing about three weeks ago, while youngsters Jordan Devey and Chris Barker have also been present.

(For what it’€™s worth, Mankins also sounded an optimistic note on the state of right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who went down in October with a season ending leg injury. “€œHe looks good right now, too. I don’€™t know his whole update right now, but he looks good and I know he’€™s working hard,”€ Mankins said of Vollmer. “There’€™s good promise there.”€)

3. There’€™s something to be said for continuity.

If everyone returns healthy, the Patriots will have a chance to utilize the same five starting offensive linemen they had at the beginning of the 2013 season — Vollmer (right tackle), Connolly (right guard), Wendell (center), Mankins, (left guard) and Nate Solder (left tackle).

“œIt’€™s always good,”€ said Mankins when asked about continuity. “We know what were doing, (but) it always comes down to making the right blocks and doing a good job. We like the group we have. We like the guys in that room. They’€™re all hard working guys and they try very hard and they work hard. I think we could have a good season together.

“€œI look forward to seeing everyone get back and everyone getting to work together finally,”€ he added. “€œIt’€™s always exciting, kind of like your first day back at school, I guess. You get to see everyone after the break, get to catch up with some friends you haven’€™t seen too much of lately, and get to work together, push each other, and see if other guys have been working as hard as you have.”

Read More: Chris Barker, Dan Connolly, Dante Scarnecchia, Dave DeGuglielmo
Patriots position-by-position breakdown: Offensive line 02.03.14 at 1:46 pm ET
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With the Patriots done for the year, we’€™ve got an end of the year position-by-position breakdown of where the roster stands. We started with special teams, wide receivers, tight ends, running backs and quarterbacks. Now, it’s the offensive line.

Depth chart: T Nate Solder, G/C Dan Connolly, G/T Logan Mankins, C Ryan Wendell, T/G Marcus Cannon, T Sebastian Vollmer, G Josh Kline, G/T Will Svitek, G Chris Barker, OT Markus Zusevics. (C/G Braxton Cave, T Jordan Devey and OL R.J. Mattes are all practice squadders.)

Overview: It was an up-and-down season for the New England offensive line. On many occasions, the group was able to do an excellent job buying time for quarterback Tom Brady to deliver the ball, as well as create sizable holes for backs like LeGarrette Blount to run through over the course of the season. However, there were times — and part of this was due in part to breakdowns in other areas, as well as injury — that the line struggled to hold up. Over the course of the season, the Patriots faced some of the best defensive front sevens in the league, and while they were frequently up to the challenge, there were times where they had issues, particularly in pass protection. Some of that can be blamed on the fact that, as a group, the offense was still searching for an identity and struggling with the acclimation of so many new faces. But don’t tell that to the offensive line, a group that continued to hold itself to an almost impossibly high standard regardless of the opponent and situation.

As a group, it was clear that health was an occasional issue. Vollmer had a leg injury that limited him to eight games, while Solder missed a game because of a head injury. As a result, the Patriots had to rely on versatility and depth to get them through some of the toughest points of the season. After Solder went down late in the loss to the Dolphins in Miami, Kline stepped in at left guard and Mankins played left tackle. The same combo faced the Ravens the following week, and held up impressively in the face of the stern Baltimore pass rush.

In the end, much of the mental toughness that eventually became the calling card of the 2013 Patriots came from the offensive line, and, by extension, Mankins. Now the second most senior member of the roster in terms of time in a New England uniform (he was drafted in 2005, and while there have been guys who have been in the league longer — Andre Carter, Isaac Sopoaga — only Brady has been with the Patriots longer than Mankins), he’s the leader of the line, and one of the premier leaders in the locker room. After nine years in the league, Mankins — who was named a second-team All-Pro for the fifth time in his career in 2013 — continues to set the standard.

Going forward, this group will be interesting to watch. The Patriots have a decision to make on pending free agents Wendell and Svitek, and Vollmer faces a return from a leg injury that prematurely ended his 2013 season. And then, there’s the question of how the group will react to the retirement of longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who leaves the franchise after 30-plus seasons. Stability, consistency and continuity have always been the watchwords of the New England offensive line, and as it enters a new era without Scarnecchia, the transition to new coach Dave DeGuglielmo will be something to watch in 2014.

Best moment: It’s shortsighted to measure an offensive line purely on sacks alone, but their work against the Falcons was pretty impressive — Brady wasn’t sacked in a September win in Atlanta. (The only game all season he wasn’t sacked.) The stretch drive the group was able to put together over the final three regular season games and the first playoff game, clearing the way for Blount to carry the offense on his back, particularly against the Bills, Ravens and Colts.

Worst moment: Probably the singular worst series for the New England offensive line was coming out of the half for the start of the third quarter against the Jets on Oct. 20: the first six offensive plays for the Patriots went as follows: sack/interception/four-gain gain/five-yard gain/no gain/sack. It’s tough to lay all that at the feet of the New England offensive line, but by Mankins’ own admission, it starts up front, and the line wasn’t able to get the job done. By the end of the quarter, a 21-10 lead turned into a 27-21 deficit, and ended up in an overtime loss. For more from Mankins on that breakdown, click here.

By the numbers: 1,218. The number of snaps played by Wendell this season, tied with Brady for most on the team.

Money quote: “I’ve coached a lot of tough guys. I don’€™t think there’€™s any that I would put ahead of him. Maybe some on that level, but none ahead. Anytime Logan needs help getting off the field, you feel like it’€™s something serious. Usually he ends up just staying out there, but for him to need assistance getting off the field was definitely a concerning moment. Then when [head athletic trainer] Jim Whelan came back and told me, as you mentioned, after the next series that Logan was back, I was a little bit surprised to hear that. He’€™s a tough individual, tough-minded, physically and mentally tough.”€ — Bill Belichick on Logan Mankins

Read More: Dan Connolly, Dante Scarnecchia, Dave DeGuglielmo, Josh Kline
Patriots Thursday injury report: Dan Connolly returns limited, Marcus Cannon limited with shoulder 10.17.13 at 5:03 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Dan Connolly returned to practice Thursday and was limited with a concussion while another offensive lineman, Marcus Cannon, showed up limited for the first time this week with a shoulder issue. In all, four players missed Thursday’s practice while nine were limited in sweats and shells outside Gillette Stadium as the Patriots continued on-field preparations for the Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Aqib Talib suffered a hip injury Sunday and missed his second straight practice while Danny Amendola missed with a concussion. Both were injured in Sunday’s win over the Saints. Tommy Kelly and Leon Washington were unavailable again after missing last week with knee and ankle injuries, respectively. Kelly and Washington have missed the last five practices.

For the Jets, receiver Santonio Holmes missed his second straight practice with foot and hamstring injuries.

Here is Thursday’s complete report:

Did Not Practice
DT Tommy Kelly (knee)
RB Leon Washington (ankle)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)
WR Danny Amendola (concussion/groin)

Limited Participation
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
WR Julian Edelman (thigh)
OL Dan Connolly (concussion)
OL Marcus Cannon (shoulder)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)
DB Devin McCourty (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm)
ST Matthew Slater (wrist)
DB Tavon Wilson (hamstring)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
DL Rob Ninkovich (groin)

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Dan Connolly, Marcus Cannon, New England Patriots, New York Jets
Aqib Talib, Danny Amendola not present at start of Patriots practice Thursday at 10:38 am ET
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FOXBORO — Cornerback Aqib Talib, wide receiver Danny Amendola, running back Leon Washington and defensive lineman Tommy Kelly were not spotted at the start of Patriots practice Thursday morning on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, marking the second consecutive day all four players were absent.

Talib (hip), Washington (ankle) and Kelly (knee) continue to deal with various maladies — Talib suffered his injury in the second half of the New Orleans game and Washington and Kelly went down with injuries in the Oct. 6 loss to the Bengals.

One player who did return after missing Wednesday’s session was Dan Connolly, who left last week’s game against the Saints with a concussion. Meanwhile, Amendola — who missed Wednesday’s practice because of a concussion injury he suffered in the final stages of the New Orleans game, as well as a groin injury that has dogged him most of the season — was again among the missing.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Aqib Talib, Dan Connolly, Danny Amendola, Leon Washington
Patriots Wednesday injury report: Five absent, seven limited led by Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman 10.16.13 at 5:44 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Five players missed Wednesday’s practice outside Gillette Stadium as the Patriots began on-field preparations for the Jets Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Aqib Talib suffered a hip injury while Danny Amendola and Dan Connolly both missed with a concussion. All three were injured in Sunday’s win over the Saints. Tommy Kelly and Leon Washington were unavailable for a second straight Wednesday after missing last week with knee and ankle injuries, respectively.

Seven other Patriots were limited, led by tight end Rob Gronkowski.

Here is Wednesday’s complete report:

Did Not Practice
DT Tommy Kelly (knee)
RB Leon Washington (ankle)
CB Aqib Talib (hip)
OL Dan Connolly (concussion)
WR Danny Amendola (concussion/groin)

Limited Participation
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
WR Julian Edelman (thigh)
TE Michael Hoomanawanui (knee)
DB Devin McCourty (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm)
ST Matthew Slater (wrist)
DB Tavon Wilson (hamstring)

Full Participation
CB Kyle Arrington (groin)
DL Rob Ninkovich (groin)

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Aqib Talib, Dan Connolly, Danny Amendola, Leon Washington
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