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Report: Koppen will be out 6-10 weeks

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / September 14, 2011

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Patriots center Dan Koppen, who was carted off the field at Sun Life Stadium during the second quarter Monday night with a left ankle injury, likely will not miss the entire season.

NFL Network reported last night that Koppen has a “small crack, bad sprain’’ and will likely undergo minor surgery that could include the insertion of a screw.

The report said Koppen will be out 6-10 weeks.

If that is the case, it will be interesting to see if the team keeps his roster spot open. Under the six-week timetable, Koppen would return for the game in Pittsburgh after the Patriots’ bye week; under the 10-week timetable, he’d return around the time of the Philadelphia game in late November.

But the news is relatively positive. Had there been extensive ligament damage, Koppen surely would have been out for the season.

The nine-year veteran has not missed a game since 2005.

When Koppen left, Dan Connolly stepped in at center. To begin with, the Patriots had to scramble to have seven offensive linemen in uniform against Miami, promoting Thomas Welch off the practice squad after Sebastian Vollmer and Ryan Wendell were declared out with injuries.

Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien discussed the line - and Tom Brady - losing Koppen and what adjustments they’ll make with Connolly at center.

“Dan’s a guy that obviously has played a lot of football for us at a very important position,’’ O’Brien said. “So that’s not an easy thing to adjust to, but I do think Dan Connolly went in there and performed pretty damn well for the situation that he was put into. I’m very confident in Dan and what’s he’s going to be able to do for us.’’

O’Brien said the Patriots didn’t adjust their game plan once Connolly stepped in.

Nondisclosure Reporters hoping to get a bit of clarity on the situation of linebacker Brandon Spikes didn’t get much from director of player personnel Nick Caserio.

Spikes did not play in the preseason games and was scratched from the season opener, though he was not on the injury report.

“There’s only X amount of players that you can have available for the game, so we make the decisions that we feel are best for the team given the opponent, and that’s what we do each week,’’ Caserio said. “So this week we’ll see what happens. Everybody will prepare for the game and then we’ll make the decision that we feel is best.’’

Asked if Spikes is in good enough physical condition to play, Caserio said, “I think he’s like a lot of players - they’re here, they’re out there, they’re performing, they’re practicing, they’re doing their best to try to put themselves in a position to play on Sunday.

“So he’s like any other player that’s on the roster; he’s no different.’’

Crystal clear now, right?

Praise for Slater Caserio was a bit more forthcoming about fourth-year player Matthew Slater, who recorded his first career catch in Miami, a pretty 39-yard grab for Brady’s first completion.

Slater has been a core special-teams player since his arrival in New England, and last year had a team-high 21 special teams takedowns. The newly minted team captain practiced as both a receiver and a defensive back.

Over the past couple of weeks, he has seen the number of snaps he’s taken with the first-team offense increase, and it paid off with his catch. Brady targeted him with another deep ball later in the win.

“I think since the day Matthew’s been here, he’s worked hard,’’ said Caserio. “There’s probably a no more professional player out there than Matthew Slater.

“He shows up, he does his job, he puts the team first, he’s attentive, and he’s worked at his craft and he’s made himself into a better football player.

“And that’s really what we ask of any player - to come in each day and try to improve.’’

Slater said it was “exciting and special’’ for him to get his first reception, and even better since it came in a winning effort.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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