Versatile Gallery happy to join winner

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After spending the first eight seasons of his NFL career playing with Oakland and Seattle, first-year Patriots guard Robert Gallery remains a bit unknown to fans in New England.

But one man who knows his game as well as anybody -- Mike Lombardi, a former Raiders personnel executive involved with selecting Gallery No. 2 overall in the 2004 draft -- thinks New England is just the right fit for the imposing 31-year old.

“I really do. You know Dante (Scarnecchia) will coach him up,” Lombardi, now an analyst for NFL Network, said in an interview with ESPNBoston.com. “They like him, they’ll find a role for him, and he’ll be able to play within that role. That’s the key to New England’s success, defining the roles. And Robert’s a good team player. He’ll do what it takes to be a good player.”

With starting left guard Logan Mankins recovering from a late-season ACL tear and right guard Brian Waters saying after the Super Bowl he was considering retirement, Gallery could assume a starting role at the outset of training camp.

But when Mankins returns, and should Waters opt to resume his career, Gallery would likely find himself in a reserve role. Lombardi believes he’s still capable of playing tackle, in addition to guard.

“That’s the beauty of Robert, his versatility ... he’s athletic as hell, he’s still athletic. I mean he can run, and he can do all the things he’s got to do,” he said.

For Gallery, expectations were high as a rookie coming out of Iowa, as many pegged him as the best prospect in the 2004 draft (a class that included Eli Manning, Larry Fitzgerald and Philip Rivers).

Gallery acknowledged those expectations, but said he doesn’t let them affect him to this day.

“If you’re drafted high you’re gonna have a lot put on you. It is what it is,” he told local media at Gillette Stadium on Thursday. “That was a long time ago. Honestly I don’t really care. I’m gonna work to do the things I know I can do and do the best with the situation I’m in. You know, it is what it is. You come in, and whatever other people think of you, to me, it doesn’t really matter.

“I’m coming here like I have every place I’ve been.” Gallery added. “I’m going in to earn a starting spot and (there are) a lot of things that go into that -- staying healthy and performing well. But that’s why I’m here. Everyone has their goals, and I came here to be a starter and contribute.”

Asked if he's more comfortable at guard or tackle, Gallery said, “I’m going to do what’s best for the team. I want to win. Whatever these coaches decide, they’re going to put the best guys on the field, that’s up to them. ... I’ve been told that they’re going to put the best five guys on the field. I’m going to be one of the best five guys, that’s my goal. And they’re going to put guys where they see fit.”

But it wasn’t just the opportunity to compete for a starting position that lured Gallery to New England (he described the decision to sign with the Patriots as a “fast” and “easy” one). He also suggested that playing for a winning organization like New England was simply too good to pass up.

"Going through eight years of never winning -- (never) having a winning season – that’s something you really covet when you get to this point. So that’s why I’m here," he said.