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McKenzie battling his way back

Posted by Albert Breer  May 18, 2010 12:57 PM

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"I sat in on all the meetings. I learned everything that I could. That was the goal, learn everything I could. And when they went to go practice, I did my rehab."

And now, he feels up to speed.

He'll get a chance for more football-specific stuff next week, when the team kicks off its OTAs, which will really mark his official return to the field. After that, the next big step will be contact, something he says he's not worried about, coming off the injury, but an aspect of the game he'll have to wait until training camp to re-assimilate himself to.

"I love the defense, because it keeps you thinking the entire game," McKenzie said. "When you’re out there, you have to make all the checks, all the calls, everyone’s looking to you. And when you stand in front of that huddle, looking at guys, you gotta know what you’re talking about.

"That’s why I love the defense, because you get to actually be a true player, all-around. You’re not just out there making one call. You’re making all the calls, so it keeps you thinking and shows how intelligent you can be."

OK, now for the kind of player the Patriots are getting ... McKenzie says he's bulked up to 248 pounds after playing at 240 in college, and didn't hold back in assessing his ability.

"Thing about it, it’s tough for me to put a label on my game and myself," he said. "I’m more of a hybrid linebacker, to where I have the size, I have the height, I have the weight, but I have the speed too. So there’s a lot of assets I have on the field.

"I’m strong as an offensive lineman, so I can hit offensive linemen, but at the same time, I can go out there and run with a running back, so it’s hard to say."

So now, he gets tossed in what should be a spirited competition at inside linebacker will fellow youngsters Jerod Mayo, Gary Guton and Brandon Spikes for roles and playing time. Which, he'd agree, is a heck of a lot better than the way he spent last year.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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