Connolly ready to step in at center

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – One minute Dan Connolly was standing on the sidelines, watching his New England Patriots teammates, led by Tom Brady, march through the Miami defense on the way to the end zone.

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Dan Connolly is being thrust into another starting role, this time at center.The next minute, Connolly, a tackle in college and an NFL guard by trade, was rushed onto the field to replace center Dan Koppen, who suffered a broken ankle and is expected to miss 8-10 weeks.

And, thanks in part to Connolly’s preparation and versatility, the Patriots’ offense didn’t miss a beat. The swap of centers was seamless. Connolly and Brady worked beautifully together in the center-quarterback exchange of the football, no small factor in Brady’s franchise-record-setting 517-yard passing performance in the 38-24 victory over the Dolphins.

“I feel that’s why I’m here. I showed versatility early on. I can play multiple positions,” Connolly said Wednesday in the Patriots’ locker room.

It’s not as if Connolly had never worked with Brady as a center. But it wasn’t as if they had had a lot of reps. Still, Connolly had had enough practice with Brady that the exchange wasn’t a foreign concept to him.

“I had gotten comfortable with it (the exchange) in practice, not in a game,” said Connolly, in his sixth year after a career at Southeast Missouri State. “I think he trusted me, that I could do it.”

“Dan’s been here quite a while now,” said Brady. “He’s worked on it. He’s expected to perform well. Dan and I have worked together for a long time. He did a damn good job. I trust him to do his job. I have to focus on what I have to do.”