Patriots' left tackle on the move
Rookie Vollmer could be starter in Light's spot Sunday
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Moving from left to right can cause unintended results.
FORMER DISCUSSES VOLLMER, KACZUR
Joe Gilbert was walking through the football offices at the University of Illinois Sunday evening when, on one of the televisions, he spotted New England Patriots left tackle Matt Light being helped off the field in a game against the Broncos. Now, Gilbert doesn't wish ill will upon anyone, but he couldn't help but be a bit excited when rookie Sebastian Vollmer jogged onto the field to take Light's place.
"I saw Light go down and figured this is going to be Seabass's shot," said Gilbert. "Sure enough, here comes Number 76 and I'm thinking, 'This is pretty cool. I've got both tackles for the Patriots.' I felt pretty good about myself then."
Gilbert, currently the offensive line coach for the Fighting Illini, previously coached Vollmer at the University of Houston and Patriots starting right tackle Nick Kaczur at the University of Toledo. We didn't get a chance to catch up with Gilbert before writing on Vollmer and Kaczur Wednesday, but he spent a few minutes chatting about his former charges as he trekked to Chicago for a recruiting trip Thursday evening.
Somewhere along the line, 07-10-84 became 10-07-84. The problem probably stems from the difference in the way dates are written in America and Vollmer's native Germany.
The Patriots are hoping that if they need to move Vollmer's No. 76 jersey from left to right this weekend, the move will be decidedly less confusing.
With left tackle Matt Light listed as doubtful with a right knee injury sustained in last week's overtime loss to the Denver Broncos, Vollmer is the likely candidate to fill the ninth-year veteran's void in the Patriots' starting lineup.
But one wrinkle is whether it makes more sense to leave Vollmer, a rookie, at his familiar left tackle spot where he played in college, or shift him to right tackle and allow the more experienced Nick Kaczur to protect quarterback Tom Brady's blind side.
Vollmer indicated he'll be prepared either way.
"That's for the coaches to determine," he said. "I'm just trying to do my best. Keep working hard and see what happens after that."
After Light was injured, Vollmer played the rest of the game at left tackle Sunday in Denver. He also has played that position when Light has shifted to an eligible third tight end.
Vollmer said that experience was helpful in gauging the speed of the pro game. But is he ready for the additional spotlight that comes with protecting the franchise quarterback's blind side?
"You just gotta do your job, do the best you can," Vollmer said. "It doesn't matter who's behind you."
The fact that Vollmer is even in line for a starting role Sunday is a testament to his rapid development. Most draft publications pegged Vollmer as a late-round pick at best, some even projecting him to go undrafted.
The pre-draft overview on NFL.com read, "Vollmer's upside, size and athleticism means he'll be selected sometime mid-afternoon Sunday on draft weekend." That left those pundits scratching their heads when the Patriots selected the 6-foot-8, 315-pound native of Dusseldorf, Germany, with the 26th pick of the second round (58th overall).
But in the same vein that the Patriots were criticized for "reaching" for guard Logan Mankins with the final pick of the first round in 2005, it appears the Patriots knew exactly what they were getting in Vollmer.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Winslow TownsonPatriots left tackle Sebastian Vollmer says he'll be prepared to play at any position Sunday.
Asked about the rookie's progress, Kaczur said, "He's done really well. He's got in there with the starters during [regular-season] games and got time in the preseason. That's what they expect of him. But he's just beginning to show what he can do."
Added center Dan Koppen, "It's one of those things where you gotta get out there and get the reps, really experience it firsthand. It's tough to play as a rookie. You're playing against a lot of good guys."
No matter who lines up in front of the Titans' Kyle Vanden Bosch on Sunday, Kaczur has confidence the line will thrive. But is there really a big difference going from one side of the line to the other?
"It's a little different, but if you can practice it all week, it's not bad," Kaczur said. "It's about getting reps and doing it. Adjust your balance, things like that, from one side to another; your weight and where it's going to be."
Vollmer, who might be the most sought-after rookie in the locker room given that German media have been a consistent presence in Foxborough this season, declared himself ready for all situations.
"You always prepare for the worst-case scenario," Vollmer said. "It's the same plays you run in practice, so you try not to let it affect you."
So there were no nerves when coaches told him to get in the game on Sunday?
It was the fourth quarter," Vollmer joked. "You've seen the crowd before."
Chris Forsberg is a reporter for ESPNBoston.com. You can follow him on Twitter.
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