Brady lauds center Wendell

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Patriots offense is centered around quarterback Tom Brady, but it is center Ryan Wendell who gets the ball rolling (or moving in this case) on each play, quite literally.

According to the NFL's game books (and as also compiled by Football Outsiders), Wendell played an NFL-best 1,379 snaps during the 2012 regular season, including 1,231 offensive snaps (just three behind left tackle Nate Solder for the team lead).

"He's done a great job," Brady said of Wendell. "He's really done a great job since he's got here. He's fought for his opportunity and then once when he got it this year, he took advantage, has been healthy and durable and consistent."

Wendell stepped into a role that was vacated by the release of longtime center Dan Koppen, who was let go at the end of training camp. Because right guard Brian Waters opted not to report to the team, the Patriots decided to shift Dan Connolly into Waters' place and press forward with Wendell in the middle.

Koppen's dependable play left big shoes for Wendell to fill, which he's done, starting every game and being flagged for just two penalties. Brady added that playing center for the Patriots is a tall order because of the amount of responsibility it puts on a player.

"Playing center on our team, it's not easy with the amount of calls and adjustments that we have both from the communication that I have with him and then he relays on to the rest of the offensive linemen," Brady noted. "He's done a great job. He's a tough, hard-nosed football player that loves the game, and loves to compete."