School starts early for rookie Solder


School starts early for rookie Solder

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti

MIAMI -- Some NFL rookies get start when they're good and ready. Others don't have the luxury.

When the Patriots' injury report came out and Sebastian Vollmer was ruled out because of an ailing back, the egg timer dinged on Nate Solder.

Get in there, Rook.

Bill Belichick did slide the left tackle to the other side for some reps during New England's preseason finale against the Giants, but starting Solder on Week 1 at right tackle wasn't the original game plan.

And he knows that.

"I just feel like I have so much to learn," he said after New England's 38-24 win in Miami. "Going out there, I gave up a bunch of pressures and a sack. There was a lot of emotions, but we need Sebastian out there. He's our starter and we need him back as soon as possible.

"There were some jitters and things going into it. Going in there was a learning process -- every snap -- and I'll continue to learn, because I want to continue to play at a better level because that's just how I am."

The two players have something in common beyond the obvious. Vollmer was also forced to learn under fire, making his first start in 2009 at left tackle to fill in for an injured Matt Light. He's been a starter (excepting injury) ever since.

Now Vollmer is the one sidelined while a rookie is asked to fill the void. And with no timetable set for return, Solder will have to get used to being at Tom Brady's right hand. As will the Patriots.

But it might turn out okay.

Solder faced a daunting challenge in his NFL debut by taking on Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake, who had a league-best 14 sacks last season. And, largely, Solder answered the bell. The Patriots showed confidence in Solder by pushing the offense down his side and he returned the favor with some solid coverage. They also put the Gronkowski brothers (a little Dan, a lot of Rob) and Dan Connolly in his hip pocket for blocking.

"I was getting help from the tight ends and I was getting help from the guards. We were playing a great defensive line. Wake is a great player so we thought that was a great idea.

"Wake's an incredible player. I'm just learning to play with guys like him," Solder laughed. "First game, I'm a young guy. I have a lot to learn."

He'll have to take some notes on Miami's second quarter Brady sack. The Patriots were on the Miami 29-yard line with 17 seconds left to play. It was second-and-20. With Brady in shotgun, Solder ran Wake down to the inside, flushing the Patriots quarterback out of the pocket. Wake picked Brady up on the outside for a one yard loss.

"Wake had some good moves and he was putting them on me," Solder shrugged. "It was a long day for me."

Not the last. Not by a long shot.

Solder's getting schooled every where he turns. After the game, a small media outlet asked the rookie to read something gimmicky on camera -- 'Hi, I'm Nate Solder and you're watching football on Station X.' He obliged, politely but awkwardly.

Brady, who was dressing at the next locker over, shook his head in disgust.

"Just because they ask you to do something doesn't mean you have to say yes," Brady said.

Solder nodded: Lesson learned. Now it's on to the next one.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti.

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

Trump wishes Kraft good luck, says Brady called to congratulate him

President-elect Donald Trump made sure to thank a few of his supporters from New England -- particularly those at 1 Patriot Place -- during a speech on the eve of his inauguration to the nation's highest office. 

Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady all earned shout-outs from Trump. Kraft was one of many Trump donors present for a dinner at Washington, DC's Union Station, where he was singled out by the soon-to-be-president. 

"In the audience we have somebody that's under no pressure whatsoever because he's got a great quarterback named Tom Brady and a great coach named Belichick: Bob Kraft," Trump said. "Good luck, Bob.

"Your friend Tom Brady just called. He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good. Good luck. You're going to do great."

Trump gave one extra nod to Belichick, who he says taught him to out-work his competition. 

"I out-worked everybody," Trump said. "I think I out-worked anyone who ever ran for office. I learned that from Belichick."

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

Patriots sign TE Rob Housler to future contract

FOXBORO -- The Patriots have signed free-agent tight end Rob Housler to a future contract. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound target last played for the Bears but was released at the end of training camp.

Housler won't be eligible to participate with the Patriots during the postseason, but he will be available for the offseason program and training camp leading up to the 2017 campaign. 

Housler taken in the third round by the Cardinals with the 69th overall selection in 2011. In 65 career games, he has 109 catches for 1,166 yards and one touchdown. 

The Patriots may have been intrigued by Housler's skill set last summer when he caught one pass for 52 yards -- making two Patriots defenders miss in the process -- during a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots and Bears held joint training camp practices in August that would have given Patriots coaches and scouts a closer look at everything Housler has to offer as a player. 

Housler was one of the better athletes at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2011, running a 4.55-second 40-yard dash (fastest among tight ends), posting a 6.9-second three-cone drill, and recording a 37-inch vertical leap.

Bill Belichick and his staff hit big on a future-contract signing two years ago when a running back with a significant injury history was available to scoop up at the behest of then-assistant to the coaching staff Michael Lombardi. Since then, the Patriots still have never lost with Dion Lewis in uniform.