After heavy workloads in Kansas City, Brian Waters got thrust into the fire in New England on Monday.
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Before he started jogging down the field to congratulate Wes Welker on his 99-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown catch, Patriots right guard Brian Waters gave a quick glimpse around the field for a penalty flag, then -- and only then -- did he start jogging towards the other end of the field.
Every little bit of energy mattered during the Patriots' 38-24 triumph over the Dolphins Monday night at Sun Life Stadium.
"It was a slow jog, but I got there," Waters said with a smile. "I figured I had a little time. I looked around for the yellow [thinking] as long as there’s no flag, I’m in the clear."
Waters is no stranger to heavy workloads. Over the past nine seasons, he's missed just three games and, last season, he played more than 1,100 total snaps for the Kansas City Chiefs while appearing in all 17 of the team's games (including the playoffs).
But after a mutual split with Kansas City in late July, the 34-year-old Waters didn't participate in an NFL training camp this summer and only signed with the New England Patriots last week. Beyond a handful of practices ramping up to Week 1, his last gridiron activity was back in early January. What's more, he was being shuffled to right guard after 11 seasons spent almost exclusively on the left side of the line.
Waters played 69 of 80 snaps (including penalties) on Monday. After rotating two series apiece with Dan Connolly at the start of the game, he got thrust into full-time duty when center Dan Koppen suffered an ankle injury late in the first half.
"Hey, man, you come in expecting to do whatever you’re asked to do," said Waters. "The job entailed me getting a number of reps tonight, I’m not going to complain about that. I’m just glad I was able to finish the game out, and not go down with any sort of cramp or anything like that, to hurt us any further."
The Patriots elevated offensive lineman Thomas Welch from the practice squad before the game in order to add depth to a line thinned by a lingering back injury to starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. When Koppen went down, it forced Connolly to shift over to center and left the Patriots with no quality option for resting Waters.
Waters looked tired at times in the South Florida heat, but gutted it out, all while rookie right tackle Nate Solder made his regular-season debut next to him. Waters heaped praise on Solder's performance, but also on Connolly for stepping up when Koppen went down.
"You know what, Dan [Connolly] stepped up big tonight," said Waters. "We miss Koppen, and that was a huge shocker. But it’s part of the game and he was out there rooting for us, just being part of it. When you've been doing this game long enough, things like that happen. You just suck it up. It wouldn’t have done [Koppen] any justice if we went out there and made [his injury] an excuse for not being where we needed to be."