FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's never easy being a rookie in the NFL. It's even tougher when in your first NFL game, you're playing out of position and being charged with making sure Tom Brady stays upright.
Tackle Nate Solder, a first-round draft pick out of Colorado, has been impressive in training camp and preseason for the Patriots. Now, with starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer missing practice again Friday and expected to be sidelined for Monday night's game against the Miami Dolphins, Solder figures to move from his usual left tackle position to the right side.
He says he is ready for the challenge, although "I don't know exactly what's been going on with that (Vollmer's injury), but I'm going to play wherever they need me to play."
Solder mostly has played left tackle. It's not always an easy thing to switch sides.
"There's different techniques," New England coach Bill Belichick said Friday. "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. Tight ends are tight ends; they flip sides, but working with different guys next to you in games and blocking combinations, things like that."
Belichick said Solder has looked good when the Patriots lined him up on the right side.
"Nate's a pretty versatile guy. He's very flexible," Belichick said. "Athletically, he has good footwork and he seems pretty comfortable wherever we put him."
To Solder, football is football -- to a degree.
"A lot of things carry over from college, but I'm learning so much each day," he said.
Vollmer's injury has left the Patriots thin at tackle behind starters Matt Light and Solder, and the entire offensive line has been a bit banged-up. Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell have been hurt but practicing. Recent addition Brian Waters appears to be fitting in well, although Belichick was noncommittal whether he will play Monday.
Belichick said he expects to dress seven or eight offensive lineman against the Dolphins.
Notes: Belichick, who has been coaching in the NFL since 1975, was asked when coaches' pregame butterflies before the first game finally fade. "I think it's once the game starts, kind of like what the players said. After that first kickoff, then you're into the game. There are a lot of things going into this game that you're not as sure about: your team, their team, all the matchups and all that. There's more of a comfort level when you have more evidence. But it's exciting. It's always exciting to get started." ... Although the Patriots have fared much better in Miami in recent years, beating the Dolphins 41-14 last Oct. 4 at Sun Life Stadium, the Dolphins still hold a 33-13 all-time edge in Miami.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press