Brady: Hands on centers' butts more than their wives

Brady: Hands on centers' butts more than their wives
August 13, 2014, 3:15 pm

FOXBORO -- The Patriots offensive line has seen more rotations lately than a carousel gone haywire. 

It's not uncommon for the Patriots to try their linemen in various spots during training camp. In fact, it's one of the reasons why they consistently have been able to compete in the trenches over the years despite injuries to that part of the roster. 

But this summer, the shakeups have seemed particularly fast-paced. One moment it's standard fare with Nate Solder in at left tackle and Sebastian Vollmer on the right. The next, Marcus Cannon is subbing in on the left side with rookie Cameron Fleming or former practice squad player Jordan Devey taking reps at the other. 

At guard Logan Mankins has been a staple on the left, but second-year man Josh Kline has mixed into the guard rotation, as has Devey and rookie Jon Halapio.

Then there's Dan Connolly, last year's starting right guard for all 16 regular-season games. He's been back at that spot during camp, but he's heavily factored into the mix at center. 

It appears as though Connolly and Ryan Wendell are at least splitting time snapping to Tom Brady, with the edge in playing time recently shifting toward Connolly.

In Wednesday's rainy practice, Connolly -- who started 11 games for the Patriots at center in 2011 -- was over the ball early on in 11-on-11 work, and Wendell took over later when the teams went into the hurry-up. Last week against the Redskins, it was Connolly who began the game at center and snapped to backup quarterback Ryan Mallett. 

Brady explained that no matter who is in front of him, he has trust that he'll receive the ball comfortably and be protected. 

"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."

Rookie fourth-round pick Bryan Stork remains an absentee from practice ever since injuring himself in the team's fifth camp practice -- he's been spotted most often on the elliptical machine on the far side of the team's practice fields -- which has forced Connolly into more work at the ce.

As an eight-year veteran, Connolly has carved a career for himself out of being a well-rounded and reliable interior lineman. He carries a fairly significant cap hit (the Patriots could save $3 million by releasing him), but with his versatility and Stork's injury, he still carries a great deal of value to New England's offensive line.

Bill Belichick praised Connolly's offseason work and his ability to bounce around to different spots on Monday.

"Dan had a real good offseason," Belichick said. "I don’t think he missed anything -- I mean, the birth of his daughter in training camp -- but he’s been a good participant and made a lot of the usual offseason-type gains in terms of building up from the end of the year. As usual, he’s working in all the spots, center and guard, as well as the kicking game. He’s a solid guy for us, always does a good job."