Once a point of solidarity, the New England Patriots offensive line remains in a state of flux as the season opener against the Titans draws ever closer.
Tom Brady will already be dealing with a new face at left tackle following Matt Light's retirement, which is bad enough, but the team will also be auditioning a new full-time center for the first time in nearly a decade after releasing Dan Koppen last week. Dan Connolly filled the role last season after Koppen was knocked out with a leg injury, but he will likely move to right guard to fill the void created by Brian Waters' absence, making Ryan Wendell the frontrunner at center.
Wendell, who joined the Patriots in 2008 as an undrafted free agent out of Fresno State, started three games at center last season and feels that he learned enough from Koppen over the years to adequately replace him.
"Being behind Koppen and watching him play for the last several years has been a great learning experience on how to be a pro," Wendell said. "Specific examples, just work ethic, study habits, how to practice. Being a pro is a lot more than about what you do on Sundays."
Wendell played in all four preseason games, earning snaps in center as part of rotation that primarily consisted of him, Connolly and Donald Thomas.
Salas learning: Wide receiver Greg Salas, who was acquired in a trade with the St. Louis Rams in exchange for a late-round 2015 draft pick, is spending his time cramming with the hope of being up to speed by Sunday. He said that playing under Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels last season in St. Louis has helped alleviate some of the learning curve. "It's just refreshing myself with the material," Salas said.
Practice peek: Running back Shane Vereen and tight end Visantha Shiancoe were the only players absent from Monday's practice, which was conducted in shorts and shells.
The first injury report of the season comes out Wednesday.