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McDonald is activated to bolster line; Price is released

Lineman Nick McDonald knows playing center poses its own set of challenges. Lineman Nick McDonald knows playing center poses its own set of challenges. (Stephan Savoia/Associated Press)
By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / December 4, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - With their top two centers dealing with injury, the Patriots yesterday promoted offensive lineman Nick McDonald from the practice squad. To make room for McDonald, New England released underachieving second-year receiver Taylor Price.

A third-round draft pick out of Ohio University just a year ago, Price played in just one game as a rookie and three games this season as he struggled with a hamstring injury. Price never developed chemistry with Tom Brady, which did not help his cause. He did not record a catch this year.

Since Price has played in so few games, he does have practice-squad eligibility, but he could be claimed off waivers by another team.

McDonald is a center/guard who was signed as a undrafted rookie by the Packers last season and made the 53-man roster out of training camp; he was a day-of-game inactive the entire season.

McDonald was released by the Packers on final cutdown day, Sept. 3, and signed by New England a day later.

Dan Connolly, who had been starting at center, missed last week’s game with a groin injury. His replacement, Ryan Wendell, suffered a calf injury against Philadelphia. Both are listed as questionable for today.

McDonald said he has been working at all three interior line positions, but center has its own set of challenges.

“You’ve got to know exactly what Tom wants,’’ he said Friday. “First and foremost, it’s got to be the snap and you’ve got to be on the same page. You just have to work at it.’’

McDonald could be the latest in a line of practice squad offensive linemen who make a contribution on the 53-man roster.

“Every guy wants to play a big role in a great organization like this,’’ he said. “You’ve got to keep working. I look at every day as a blessing to be here. I hope every day I just keep getting better and [I’ve] got to be ready if I get called up.’’

Measuring stick

There aren’t many Patriots who understand what it’s like to struggle through the type of season the Colts are enduring, but Wes Welker has an idea.

As a rookie with the Dolphins in 2004, Welker was part of a team that finished 4-12. Welker, who has been part of just 16 regular-season losses in four-plus years with New England, said now is the best time for such a team to see who is invested and who isn’t.

“It’s the easiest time for teams to evaluate talent and to see what guys are going to give effort in bad circumstances,’’ said Welker. “As we’ve seen on film with the Colts, they haven’t given in or anything like that. Their best players are playing hard and bringing it every single play, so it’s not an easy thing to do, but they’re doing it.’’

Bright and early

Welker said it will be nice to have a 1 p.m. home game today, the first of the season and just the second early game of the year for the Patriots. Their Week 3 game in Buffalo was a 1 p.m. contest . . . Brady has 289 regular-season touchdown passes, which is eighth in NFL history. With one today, he will tie Johnny Unitas for seventh, and with two, he’ll tie Warren Moon for sixth.

Peyton misplaced

Today marks the first time since Nov. 30, 1997 - a span of 19 games, including three postseason meetings - that the Patriots will play the Colts without Peyton Manning under center . . . The Patriots Charitable Foundation will be collecting toys today at Gillette Stadium. Volunteers will be at marked blue bins at four locations outside stadium entrances to take donated toys. Starting tomorrow, donations can be made in the Patriots Pro Shop and the management office at Patriot Place.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung. Monique Walker of the Globe staff contributed to this story.

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