INDIANAPOLIS - Veteran Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia indicated that right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is on track to play in the Super Bowl against the Giants on Sunday.
Vollmer has played in six games this season, and none since the Nov. 27 game at Philadelphia. Vollmer had a bruised back earlier in the season, and then a foot injury knocked him out for the rest of the regular season.
"Heís back to practicing and being healthy," Scarnecchia said.
Asked if it's a tough chore going from not playing to suiting up in the Super Bowl, Scarnecchia didn't flinch.
"It doesnít matter," Scarnecchia said. "Anytime you step across the line and youíve got (Giants end) Justin Tuck on the other side, thatís always a tough proposition."
Having Vollmer back against Tuck and the rest of the Giants' line would be a big boost. Vollmer is better able to handle Tuck's power game. Rookie Nate Solder's forte is against speed rushers, and having Vollmer in the lineup would allow the Patriots to use Solder as a third tight end.
Whoever plays, Scarnecchia knows his unit must continue to play it's best, something he admitted his line failed to do in the three consecutive playoff losses before the season, starting with Super Bowl XLII against the Giants.
"Quite honestly, we hadnít played very good football on the offensive line in three playoff games. Thatís the truth. Thatís the truth," Scarnecchia said. "And we felt like if we wanted to be successful and get to where we wanted to go, we had to play our best football each week in these playoffs. Whether anyone thinks that or not, I donít particularly care. But I just know this: thatís our challenge and itís again our challenge again this week. We have to play our best football on Sunday afternoon against a very good defense and see where it goes from there."
Scarnecchia, who doesn't talk to the media during the season, commented on some of his players heading into Sunday's game:
Left tackle Matt Light: "He plays a very tough position and heís been a consistent player for a long time. Heís been a leader on this football team for a long time. Weíre all glad that he did come back to us and heís had a nice year. He really truly has had a nice year. I donít know if there was a turning point. I felt like from the first game against Miami all the way through, I think heís played consistently good football, he hasnít made many mental errors and heís stayed out there and done a good job."
Left guard Logan Mankins: "I think heís had a great year. I think he picked right up where he left off last year, coming in late and playing really well for us last year and I think heís had a really exceptional year -- very, very consistent, great effort throughout, really has taken on the leadership role. Heís an outstanding player, a good person and a pleasure coach in many respects."
Center Dan Connolly: "Heís a really gifted athlete. When he came in here, this guy spent his time on the practice squad, he did everything he was supposed to do, he improved himself as a player and heís a very, very good center in this league."
Right guard Brian Waters: "Heís done a great job from the very beginning when we told him against Miami that he would only play about 30 plays and all of a sudden we lose (center Dan) Koppen and then it was, ĎWell, Brian, youíre going to stay out there.í And he did.
"The one thing I think thatís been, to me, the most satisfying thing is that hereís a guy, to use an overused phrase, heís an old dog, and heís got his own way of doing things, but heís been very, very receptive to the way we do things and heís tried to embrace those things and heís played really, really well all season long. The most important thing is heís a leader that all of a sudden has really stepped into that role for us along with Light and Mankins. They really respect that guy, the team respects that guy and I think thatís really the most satisfying thing, that he has that same status here that he had in Kansas City as a very veteran player, a very good player and now he is one of our leaders."
Right tackle Nate Solder: "Heís gone through the usual rookie tough times and the bad times havenít been as much as...Let me give you a comparison: his bad times werenít even remotely close to Matt Lightís bad times (as a rookie). It ainít even close. But heís a gifted athlete, heís a very smart guy, heís very tough.
"Thank god we took him, really, when you think about it because we didnít have Light at the time, all of a sudden we get some injuries at tackle with Sebastian and all of a sudden hereís this guy, ĎYouíve got to start, youíve got to play against these really good players,í and to his credit and the fact that heís playing tight end and tackle Ė either side Ė to his credit, how could you want anymore out of a young kid than what weíve gotten out of him this year? And he will continue to be a better player as the years go on. Weíre very, very pleased to have him."
Tackle/guard Marcus Cannon: "We all hoped for the best in Week 6 when he was able to come back (off physically unable to perform list-illness), but thereís another one. I think what really hurt him the most was not being in training camp and OTAs and all that other stuff let alone the illness that he had and to come back when he did. Heís behind, he truly is behind, but heís a wonderful kid with a great upside and another tough guy, smart guy that weíre very pleased to have so weíll just see how that goes."