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Connolly embraces new leadership role

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots offensive lineman Dan Connolly said Wednesday that he was surprised and honored to be named one of the team captains for the first time in his pro career.

Connolly joins quarterback Tom Brady, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, linebacker Jerod Mayo, safety Devin McCourty and special teamer Matthew Slater as the Patriots’ captains.

“It’s a great honor to be recognized by my teammates,” Connolly said. “I was surprised. Like I said, it’s a great honor.”

Connolly takes over the leadership role on the offensive line from Logan Mankins, who is now with Tampa Bay. Connolly learned from Mankins, and said he is ready to lead his teammates.

“We were good friends,” Connolly said. “We all know that this job is not forever, so [Mankins] leaving was sad. But I’ve moved on and we’ve got our team here and we are preparing for our opponent this week.”

Connolly has come a long way from his days on the Patriots practice squad in 2007 and 2008, and being named a captain means a lot.

“It means that my teammates think I’m a leader for them and they are going to look up to me, and I appreciate that honor from them,” he said.

Head coach Bill Belichick praised Connolly’s hard work this offseason during a press conference on Wednesday.

“Dan has had a real good year,” Belichick said. “He’s a sharp guy, works hard and had a good offseason. He was able to train throughout the bulk of the offseason and he’s done a solid job for us at really a number of positions.”

Connolly has leadership experience, as he was a captain for his football teams in both high school and in college at Southeast Missouri State.

Though even with his leadership experience and a new title, Connolly remains focused on one thing.

“Business as usual,” Connolly said. “Just going to come in and do what I need to do to help this team win.”