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Bad news on Bryan Stork won't stump Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With New England Patriots rookie center Bryan Stork absent from practice on Wednesday after sustaining a knee injury during the second quarter of Saturday’s win over the Baltimore Ravens, the team will need to be prepared for the possibility of moving on without him.

Stork’s status for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game will be determined as the week goes on. But as of now, coach Bill Belichick will have to operate with the mindset that he won’t be available.

Luckily for the Patriots, this isn’t unfamiliar territory. As the offensive line endured its struggles earlier this season, Belichick got the chance to see which combinations work and which don’t.

For example, when Stork went down on Saturday, Belichick shifted usual right guard Ryan Wendell to center, a position he started at earlier this season twice while Stork battled a concussion. Josh Kline, who played right guard during those same two games, took Wendell’s spot.

While noticeably weaker than usual, particularly when it came to double-teaming certain Ravens defensive linemen, the group was able to avoid any disasters in the win.

Which is why the panic level is seemingly low among players at this point. As a result of the number of different line combinations the team has used, confidence in the group of available linemen even without Stork remains high.

“We always try to prepare as many guys as we can to be able to fill in a spot,” offensive line captain Dan Connolly said. “You never know what’s going to happen in a game. Guys get hurt; that’s just the nature of the business. So, you try to prepare guys to come in and not slow down at all. We’ve got to keep going when somebody steps in.”

So if Stork is unavailable come Sunday, don’t expect the Patriots to dwell on the matter. Instead, expect Belichick to be prepared to make the proper adjustments, just as he has all season.