Two sides to Vollmer’s success story
Patriots lineman adept at right and left tackle
FOXBOROUGH — Sebastian Vollmer has never been one to dwell on the past.
But that doesn’t mean he is incapable of reflection. Especially when it comes to the pivotal moment of his NFL career — when as a Patriots rookie he was thrown into the breach during a 20-17 overtime loss at Denver last season when left tackle Matt Light injured his knee.
“Everything happened so fast,’’ Vollmer recalled. “The coaches were like, ‘Well, get in.’ Matt was out, so it was, ‘Get in.’ So there was really not much thinking involved. It was like, ‘OK, gotta go.’ ’’
A little more than a year later, Vollmer has not slowed down to contemplate how far he’s come. All the way from Germany, in fact, where he didn’t start playing football until he was 14, after devoting much of his youth to soccer and swimming.
After being selected in the second round (58th overall) of the 2009 draft, the 6-foot-8-inch, 315-pound Vollmer has emerged as a mainstay on the offensive line. Last year, he played right and left tackle, and this season he has taken over at right tackle for the injured Nick Kaczur (back).
“When you’re being told to play left, to play right, whatever it is, you just try to do it,’’ said Vollmer, who has come to be known in the locker room by his nickname at the University of Houston, “Sea Bass.’’
“I don’t think in this sport you can really be certain of anything,’’ Vollmer said. “I just have to try and stay as prepared as I can and do what I’m told to do and, obviously, I’m doing as best I can. I’m just taking it day by day — play by play, really.’’
While Vollmer downplayed any significant difference in switching from right tackle to left and back again, coach Bill Belichick marveled at the facility with which Vollmer was able to make those changes.
“He’s one of those guys that I don’t really see much difference with him at left tackle and right tackle,’’ Belichick said. “He seems equally comfortable on both sides. His playing style is the same.
“His technique is equally good and it’s kind of been that way since the beginning. He played left tackle in college and then they moved him to right tackle for, I think it was, the East-West [Shrine] game.’’
At that game, Vollmer worked with Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia.
“That was kind of interesting because he hadn’t had a lot of experience as a football player, period, and then to get switched to a different side in an all-star game,’’ Belichick said. “But [he] actually looked maybe a little bit better, which was surprising. And then he improved over the course of the year at left tackle and he has just continually gotten better here.
“Some players, they can go from one position to another and it just seems so natural that you wouldn’t even know what their real position is. And then there are other guys that you move them from one side to the other, it’s like watching two different players. For his lack of experience as a football player, it’s been remarkable how easily that has come to him.’’
The versatility of the 26-year-old Vollmer no doubt has provided quarterback Tom Brady with a great deal of comfort and confidence.
“He’s been a really solid player since he got here,’’ Brady said. “He really stepped in last year when Matt got hurt and took over that position, and when Matt came back, they both played. Sea Bass played a little bit at the right side, too, but he’s really stepped into that role this year and has become a consistent player for us.
“He’s very durable and he’s got a great attitude. He’s very mature. He’s only in his second year but he’s an older kid — an older man, I should say, he’s no kid. He’s got a lot of great physical characteristics as a player and he’s very smart and tough.’’
How much confidence does that give Brady?
“A ton,’’ he said. “I have a ton of confidence that he’s going to be able to hold up. It’s not easy to play tackle in this league. It used to be only the left tackle faced the best pass rushers; now they have them at right tackle. They move the guy over from the left tackle to the right tackle, wherever they feel like they want to generate pressure from. He’s gone up against some great players.’’
No opponent, though, has given Vollmer reason to second-guess himself or his abilities.
“For me, as a rookie, everyone was extremely good,’’ Vollmer said. “But it comes back to the preparation because every player is a little different and can give you problems in different areas. And so it’s really important to study film and pick up any keys that might be able to help you and then rely on the technique you’ve learned so far and do what you can in the game.’’
Said Belichick, “He’s a very intelligent guy, and Sea Bass works hard. Whatever you tell him to do, whether it’s field goal protection or run blocking or pass [protection], it doesn’t matter what it is, he works really hard to get it right and do it right.
“He seems equally comfortable at both positions. I wouldn’t have thought that bringing him in here. But after being with him a year, I don’t think much fazes him.’’
Not even when he pauses to reflect on how far he’s come to reach the NFL and how fast the time has gone since he was thrust into the mix.
“Time goes by fast,’’ Vollmer said. “Looking back, you say, ‘Man, it’s been a year,’ but we’re looking to San Diego now and we’re just taking it week by week, day by day, and you’re just looking forward.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.