School starts early for rookie Solder


School starts early for rookie Solder

By Mary Paoletti Staff Reporter Follow @mary_paoletti

MIAMI -- Some NFL rookies get start when they're good and ready. Others don't have the luxury.

When the Patriots' injury report came out and Sebastian Vollmer was ruled out because of an ailing back, the egg timer dinged on Nate Solder.

Get in there, Rook.

Bill Belichick did slide the left tackle to the other side for some reps during New England's preseason finale against the Giants, but starting Solder on Week 1 at right tackle wasn't the original game plan.

And he knows that.

"I just feel like I have so much to learn," he said after New England's 38-24 win in Miami. "Going out there, I gave up a bunch of pressures and a sack. There was a lot of emotions, but we need Sebastian out there. He's our starter and we need him back as soon as possible.

"There were some jitters and things going into it. Going in there was a learning process -- every snap -- and I'll continue to learn, because I want to continue to play at a better level because that's just how I am."

The two players have something in common beyond the obvious. Vollmer was also forced to learn under fire, making his first start in 2009 at left tackle to fill in for an injured Matt Light. He's been a starter (excepting injury) ever since.

Now Vollmer is the one sidelined while a rookie is asked to fill the void. And with no timetable set for return, Solder will have to get used to being at Tom Brady's right hand. As will the Patriots.

But it might turn out okay.

Solder faced a daunting challenge in his NFL debut by taking on Dolphins linebacker Cameron Wake, who had a league-best 14 sacks last season. And, largely, Solder answered the bell. The Patriots showed confidence in Solder by pushing the offense down his side and he returned the favor with some solid coverage. They also put the Gronkowski brothers (a little Dan, a lot of Rob) and Dan Connolly in his hip pocket for blocking.

"I was getting help from the tight ends and I was getting help from the guards. We were playing a great defensive line. Wake is a great player so we thought that was a great idea.

"Wake's an incredible player. I'm just learning to play with guys like him," Solder laughed. "First game, I'm a young guy. I have a lot to learn."

He'll have to take some notes on Miami's second quarter Brady sack. The Patriots were on the Miami 29-yard line with 17 seconds left to play. It was second-and-20. With Brady in shotgun, Solder ran Wake down to the inside, flushing the Patriots quarterback out of the pocket. Wake picked Brady up on the outside for a one yard loss.

"Wake had some good moves and he was putting them on me," Solder shrugged. "It was a long day for me."

Not the last. Not by a long shot.

Solder's getting schooled every where he turns. After the game, a small media outlet asked the rookie to read something gimmicky on camera -- 'Hi, I'm Nate Solder and you're watching football on Station X.' He obliged, politely but awkwardly.

Brady, who was dressing at the next locker over, shook his head in disgust.

"Just because they ask you to do something doesn't mean you have to say yes," Brady said.

Solder nodded: Lesson learned. Now it's on to the next one.

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Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip


Brady enjoying "unique experience" of road trip

While being away from home isn’t uncommon for the Patriots - just think about all those Super Bowl trips - Tom Brady believes each excursion takes on it’s own feel, it’s own flavor and - eventually - it’s own meaning.

Back in 2014, the Pats went from playing in Green Bay and losing to the Packers straight to San Diego for a week on the West Coast prior to a rousing victory over the Chargers. That week, many players said in the aftermath, helped propel the team to great heights,.  You’ll recall, that season ended in grand fashion, a triumph in Super Bowl 49 over Seattle, at the time - and maybe still - the greatest Super Bowl ever played.

“I think all these experiences are pretty unique,” Brady said Friday from Falcon Stadium at the Air Force Academy. “That was a very unique experience. This is different.”

Brady spoke about the number of stops the Pats have and will have to make on this trip - from Denver to Colorado Springs then on to Mexico City Saturday before a Sunday night return to Foxboro and their own beds for the first time in 10 nights.

“When you’re on the road like this, there’s less to do,” he said. “You know my family is not here, my kids aren’t here. There’s nobody telling me what I did wrong in the house. It’s just being at home and now it’s being here and trying to figure out a way to win a game.”

Brady quickly smoothed over any possible ill-will at home - why make Gisele mad? - smiling and saying “I didn’t mean that so I’ll take it back.”

Kidding aside, the 40-year old signal caller seemed pleased with the work the Patriots have put in during this long trip. A week of team-bonding can’t be a bad thing, especially for a group that seems to be hitting it’s stride both on and off the field. There’s the five wins in a row and also a locker room that has a better understanding of one another than it did during the first month of the season. But Brady is not ready to make any grand proclamations. That just wouldn’t be his style.

“I think it’s still work in progress,” he said of team chemistry. “You look at still adding a player like Marty (Bennett) last week. Things are always changing and evolving. We’re still trying to figure out what we’re doing well and after 8 or 9 weeks, you start to figure those things out. Now we have to work hard at those things, try to really own them, and use them going forward to try and win the most important games. We have a lot of important games coming up, starting with this one. Hopefully we can play our best football going forward.”

Brady said he’s been fired up for this game with the Raiders south of the border ever since the schedule was released all those months ago.

“I’ve never been to Mexico City,” he said. “It’s been a game you kind of look forward to. We’re playing against a really good football team in a pretty cool environment. It will be very memorable. I think everyone is excited.”

Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out


Patriots’ injury report: Center Andrews, WR Hogan out

The Patriots will be without center David Andrews on Sunday when they play the Raiders in Mexico City. Andrews, who hasn’t all practice all week with an illness, is one of four Pats listed as out on the injury report released Friday.


Offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, who didn’t play last week against the Broncos is also out, along with wide receiver Chris Hogan and special teams captain Matthew Slater. Offensive linemen Ted Karras and Joe Thuney each took reps at center so one of them will likely start in Andrews’ absence. LaAdrian Waddle filled in for Cannon and performed well last week vs. Denver. 

Here’s the full injury report for the Patriots and Raiders: