Following a two-hour practice on the fields behind Gillette Stadium, Koppen met with the media, and said it wasn't easy watching as the team advanced to the Super Bowl.
"You’ve got to be mentally strong enough to handle that and say injuries happen and move on, but it’s tough to sit there and watch," Koppen said. "To sit around and watch, it makes you have greater appreciation for your job. Being around the guys, it’s good to be back."
Koppen broke his left ankle in the opener against Miami, and became an unrestricted free agent after the season, drawing mild interest. He ultimately signed a two-year contract with the Patriots that reportedly could be worth $6 million.
Returning to the only NFL team he's played for -- the Patriots picked him in the fifth round of the 2003 draft out of Boston College -- is exactly where he wants to be.
"I didn’t want to go anywhere else. Thank goodness it did work out, it’s probably more of a pain moving the whole family and getting all that stuff squared away," Koppen said. "I’m hoping to play for a little bit more and end my career here. This is where I want to be, this is what I know."
He's started since his rookie season, but might have to overtake Dan Connolly for the starting center spot this season. Competition, Koppen said, comes with the job.
"There’s always guys coming in trying to take your job," Koppen said. "My approach this year is not going to be any different from last year. No one’s job is safe on this team, maybe minus 12 [quarterback Tom Brady], but you never know around here.
"You’ve just got to go out and compete and work hard, show the coaches that you can be reliable and dependable, and they know that you know what you’re doing. There’s always competition, that’s what the coaches stress to us."