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Koppen, Connolly battling for starting center job

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By Kevin Fishbain

From the media session at the Patriots’ OTAs on Thursday, it was further confirmed that a battle to watch over the next few months will be at center. We examined in February the Pats’ decision regarding their two free-agent centers: Dan Koppen, who has started 120 games for New England, though only one last season after suffering a broken leg, and Dan Connolly, the versatile lineman who filled in for Koppen in 2011 after playing mostly guard in '10, filling in for Logan Mankins and then Stephen Neal. The team re-signed Connolly, and after Koppen visited the Titans — who were searching for a new starting center — he decided to return to Foxborough. Judging by the contracts (Connolly reportedly got a $3.25 million signing bonus and Koppen received a signing bonus of $350,000), and the glimpse the media got at OTAs, where Connolly worked with the first team at center, Connolly has the early edge.

One thought when Koppen re-signed was that the Patriots had insurance in case Brian Waters decided to retire, which would move Connolly back to guard and return the starting center position to Koppen. It appears that Waters will return for the ’12 season, and Koppen might have to get used to an unfamiliar place — with the second team.

The battle will be closely watched this summer, and one wild card, we hear, might be QB Tom Brady. With more than 100 games under center taking snaps from Koppen, Brady could be a factor in the ultimate decision of who starts at center in Week One. Koppen presumably would have the edge if Brady has a say in the matter, but for now, Koppen is fighting to regain a starting position.

 

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