FOXBOROUGH — When the Patriots signed Dan Connolly to a three-year, $10 million million in March, it appeared to give the 29-year-old lineman some security, but also foreshadowed the end of Dan Koppen’s nine-year run in New England.
Then, the Patriots re-signed Koppen.
Last year, Connolly took Koppen’s job and ran with it after Koppen broke his leg in the season opener, and even though it feels like the center spot is his to lose, especially after being signing his deal, Connolly said he’s treating it like an open competition.
“Of course, it feels good for somebody to want me that much,” Connolly said. “But same case every year, I’ve got to still go out and prove myself, I’ve got to compete for a job, nothing’s just going to be given to me. Whatever it is, it’ll show itself after training camp.
Connolly said the front office never discussed its intentions for Koppen with him, but that he wasn’t surprised they decided to bring back one of the mainstays on the line. The relationship between the two off them in OTAs hasn’t changed.
Connolly was probably buoyed by the Patriots giving Koppen little guaranteed money on his two-year deal.
“It’s always the same in the locker room,” Connolly said. “In the offseason we bring in 20-something guys. Everybody’s competing for five spots. So competition’s not a foreign thing to us. You can’t live your life being enemies with guys just because you’re competing for the same job. We’re all friends and we get along and we know it’s part of the business.”
Having them both gives the Patriots flexibility. Should guards Brian Waters or Logan Mankins have health issues, Connolly has the experience to play guard while Koppen plays center. Connolly says he’s comfortable wherever he ends up on the line.
“Obviously, last year that’s what I played, but in years past I played guard too,” he said. “I don’t know if I have a preference. I’ve been playing them all and I’ve enjoyed what I’ve played when I’m playing it. So whatever it its, that’s what it is.”