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Solder could start in debut

Right tackle Vollmer again misses practice

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / September 10, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - There’s a strong chance that first-round pick Nate Solder not only will make his NFL debut in Miami on Monday night, he will get his first start.

With right tackle Sebastian Vollmer missing practice the last two days because of a back injury, the likelihood of him playing is slim. Enter Solder, whom coach Bill Belichick inferred on draft night was strictly a left tackle, although he was at right tackle with the first team in the preseason finale against the Giants. Solder also took snaps at right guard during camp.

“I think Nate is a pretty versatile guy,’’ Belichick said. “He seems very flexible - athletically, his footwork, and so forth. He seems to be very comfortable wherever we put him.’’

Solder declared himself ready for whatever is asked of him.

“The coaches have confidence for me to be in there and I’m happy to be there,’’ Solder said.

Belichick noted that there are different techniques when players move from left tackle to right, such as “playing from inside-out and keeping your weight on your inside foot in pass protection or reach blocking, working with different people - the right guard instead of the left guard - blocking combinations, things like that.’’

The Patriots have just three tackles on the roster - Solder, Vollmer, and Matt Light. There could be a roster move made before the game, as the Patriots have two tackles on their practice squad: Matt Kopa, who was on the Dolphins’ 53-man roster for the final eight games of last season but wasn’t active on game days, and Thomas Welch, a seventh-round pick by the Patriots last season who spent the year on Minnesota’s practice squad.

No alterations needed Cornerback Leigh Bodden said his thumb injury isn’t going to change his approach.

Bodden fully participated in practice Thursday and yesterday, taking the field with his thumb heavily bandaged.

“My legs are fine. My arms are fine, so I can do everything a football player needs to do to get ready for a football game,’’ he said.

Bodden is taking the injury in stride.

“Things like that happen, but all I can do is look forward and look to do what I have to do when I get on the field,’’ he said. “When I get on the field, I plan to be the player I am.’’

Bodden often has lined up opposite the slot receiver. That experience will likely come in handy against Miami’s Davone Bess, who has 33 catches for 395 yards and three touchdowns in six games against New England.

Oh, brother Wes Welker had the line of the day when asked about what it’s like to have Rob Gronkowski to his right and brother Dan Gronkowski to his left in the locker room.

“I thought it was going to be very interesting, like I was going to have two idiots right next to me on both sides, but the other one is actually pretty bright,’’ Welker said of Dan, who was signed Wednesday. “I was actually surprised.’’

Dan, who was released by the Broncos last Saturday, said there hasn’t been much time to get excited about playing with his younger brother.

“It’s been all business since I’ve been here. I’m just trying to get the stuff down for the game,’’ he said. “I know a lot from being in Josh McDaniels’s offense. There’s a lot of familiarity, so I’m just trying to get it down and focus on the game right now.’’

With Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez the only other tight ends on the roster, Dan Gronkowski has a good chance to play Monday.

Less than perfect Yesterday’s practice report was the same as Thursday’s. Vollmer did not practice, and 10 players were limited - Mark Anderson (knee), Kyle Arrington (hip), Dan Connolly (foot), Jermaine Cunningham (groin), Dane Fletcher (thumb), Taylor Price (hamstring), Stevan Ridley (ankle), Jeff Tarpinian (knee), Shane Vereen (hamstring), and Ryan Wendell (calf). In addition to Bodden, Julian Edelman (hand) participated fully.

Monique Walker of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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