Rookie center Bryan Stork sidelined

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are holding their sixth practice of training camp Wednesday morning, and rookie center Bryan Stork is not present.

Stork, the fourth-round pick out of Florida State, is competing for a starting job with incumbent Ryan Wendell and veteran Dan Connolly. He appeared to suffer a lower-leg injury midway through Tuesday’s practice and walked off with members of the athletic training staff and did not return.

A potential extended absence from Stork (6-foot-4, 310) in training camp could significantly alter the competition at center, which is one the team’s most important position battles in camp.

Speaking in general terms in his Wednesday morning news conference, Bill Belichick touched on how missed practice time in training camp can be extremely tough for young players to recover from.

“With the limited number of practices we have now, relative to what we had in the 80s when I was with the Giants -- we were in the 50s number of practices before the first game -- now we’re at half that, maybe a little less,” Belichick said. “So if a player with no experience isn’t able to participate and misses two weeks, 5, 6, 8, 10 practices whatever it is, that’s like missing half of training camp. It’s a lot of ground to make up.”

With Stork not on the field, Wendell (6-2, 300), Connolly (6-4, 305) and first-year player Braxston Cave (6-3, 305) will likely take the bulk of the center repetitions.

A few other notes and sound bites from Belichick and the Patriots:

  • Belichick called this the “grinding through camp” period for the team. He is attempting to create stress for the players, which is part of establishing a strong foundation for any team, and that is reflected in how Wednesday’s practice is once again being held in full pads.

  • Asked about former Brown University fullback James Develin by a Providence-based television station, Belichick compared his role to a relief pitcher in baseball. You never quite know going into a game what situation he might be used, but he fills a valuable role. Belichick also mentioned Develin’s impressive 1-yard touchdown run against the Texans last season in which he broke four tackles in a remarkable effort.

  • Receiver Josh Boyce, who reporters spotted walking off the field Tuesday with a limp, is not present at practice this morning. Linebacker Chris White is also a new absence.