FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots made position coaches available Thursday before the players were sent off on a long weekend.
Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who doesn’t always like chatting with reporters, spent a few minutes giving updates on his group.
Among the numerous changes to the line that Scarnecchia has dealt with this season: the release of longtime center Dan Koppen, with little-used Ryan Wendell now serving as the starter.
“I think clearly the obvious is that he replaced a very, very good football player and a very popular football player,” Scarnecchia said. “That’s as tough a decision as we’ve ever had around here for those reasons. But we also knew that this is a young guy that has played very well when we’ve asked him to play.
“He’s done a very good job through the first eight games of the season. He’s all the things we thought he would be. He’s very tough, he’s very smart, he’s a really competitive guy on every down, through every down. He’s a great finisher.
“That’s why he’s here and that’s why we kept him as a rookie and kept him around here and that’s why this kid is on our roster and that’s why he’s starting for us, for all those reasons.
“So we’re pleased with the way things have gone there. Yet if you asked him, I’m sure he would probably say he has a lot of work to do and could play better in a lot of situations.
“He’s a great kid. I’m glad we’ve got him.”
Of left tackle Nate Solder, Scarnecchia said the second-year player and first-year starter at the position is not satisfied and faces challenges every week at his spot.
“He plays a critical position,” Scarnecchia said. “Those guys always have a tough job, but they all have tough jobs.
“There are good players in this league at all positions. Every week, if you don’t play your best football, you’re going to have a problem over there, or any of those positions. I think that’s really true on the edges, where you see things a little bit more lucidly than you do inside.”
Spikes feeling good
Linebacker Brandon Spikes said that while he was looking forward to spending a few days with friends and family, he was focused on improving.
“I’m still going to be working,” he said. “I’m not just saying that to you guys. Honestly, I just want to be a professional. I want to be the best at my position. I can’t let a day get by. I’m definitely going to enjoy my family, but I’m still trying to get the edge.”
Spikes hits the midpoint of the season second on the team in tackles and has provided several crushing hits.
After missing eight games last year and much of the offseason to injury, Spikes is healthy as he prepares for the second half.
“This is the best I’ve ever felt in my life,” he said. “I feel like I’m 18. I can go places, I feel great.
“Seriously, I’m a physical guy, I’m a big-boned guy. I don’t really feel any of it.”
The Patriots held their one practice of the week with media access Thursday, with players in full pads. There were three players not spotted: Aaron Hernandez (ankle), Kyle Arrington (concussion), and Brandon Bolden (knee). Logan Mankins (hip/calf), who did not play against the Rams, was on the field, as were Steve Gregory (hip) and Trevor Scott (hamstring), who did not practice last week. Tracy White (foot) was participating, but did not have a helmet or pads, so his participation was likely limited. Teams are not required to file an injury report during bye weeks . . . Offensive lineman Nick McDonald, linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, and practice squad fullback James Develin were in black jerseys, recognized as practice players of the week for their contributions leading to the St. Louis game . . . New England added 6-foot receiver Jarred Fayson to the practice squad. Fayson, undrafted out of Illinois in 2011, was with the Saints in training camp and on the Colts practice squad last year.