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No snap judgment here

Patriots are waiting on center Koppen’s status

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / November 10, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Patriots center Dan Koppen strolled through the locker room yesterday, but he didn’t have much to say. He declined an interview request less than 24 hours after he left Sunday’s game against Miami in the second quarter because of a knee injury. Yesterday, Koppen wasn’t wearing a brace and didn’t appear to be limping.

But his injury generated concern for the Patriots as they prepare for the undefeated Colts this week, with all eyes on his progress.

There wasn’t much of an update from coach Bill Belichick, who said the training staff needs at least a day or two to see how a player responds to an injury. Any official update on Koppen will be provided via the practice/injury report tomorrow, when the team returns to practice.

On his contractually obligated appearance on WEEI, quarterback Tom Brady talked about losing Koppen and how Dan Connolly filled in.

“I’ve taken so many snaps from [Koppen] over the years and we have such great communication between the two of us and he’s one of my best friends on the team,’’ Brady said. “Dan [Connolly] stepped in and really played very well. It’s always tough to do and that center-quarterback exchange is something that you have no play if you can’t get that.’’

Koppen appeared to be taken out while making a block with five minutes left in the half. The team announced he had a knee injury and his return was questionable. He did not return.

Koppen is in his seventh year with the Patriots, drafted in the fifth round in 2003. Entering this season, he had started 87 of his 88 games.

Connolly also received praise from Belichick.

“I thought Dan Connolly did a real good job of playing when he’s had an opportunity,’’ Belichick said. “I said after the game, I think Dan’s a pretty fast healer and hopefully he’ll be back out there soon.’’

Connolly is in his fourth season and second with the Patriots. He was a member of the practice squad in 2007 and was signed to the active roster last season. In 2008, he played in one game on special teams in the season finale against Buffalo, having been signed to the active roster two weeks before.

Against the Dolphins, the 6-foot-4-inch, 313-pound lineman out of Southeast Missouri State returned a low and short kickoff for 16 yards in Sunday’s 27-17 win.

“I think he did a great job,’’ offensive lineman Nick Kaczur said. “Dan’s been around here for a while. He can step in. It went real well.’’

Brady described Connolly as a dependable and consistent player who benefits from strength and his athletic ability to be versatile.

Belichick said he has seen the biggest improvement out of Connolly in the last few months.

“The thing about Dan is he’s smart, he works hard, he’s got good skills,’’ Belichick said. “I think his progress has improved gradually, but in the last six to eight months he’s taken a big jump. Why that happened now and it didn’t happen at some other point? I don’t know if I know the answer to that.

“But from last spring, to training camp, to by the end of training camp this year his level of play has jumped up significantly. Then he played [Sunday] and I thought he did a real good job. But then we didn’t have him for a couple of games earlier in the season. Even out on the practice field, he really blocks, pretty much, everybody we put up against him. He’s really improved a lot in the last few months - confidence, experience - it’s really all coming to focus for him.’’

The Patriots will be watching the progress of a number of their banged-up offensive players and the Colts defensive unit is in a similar situation.

“We’re missing about half of our offense. It’s the walking wounded out there,’’ Brady said. “We’re going to bring the guys that we’ve got healthy, and they’re going to bring the guys that they’ve got healthy and it’s probably going to be a typical Colts-Patriots game.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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