Arriving in a trade from the Bills on the day of final cuts, veteran center Russ Bodine hits New England with work to do and an opportunity to be had.
Coming off a broken leg that cut short his first and only season in Buffalo, Bodine was left on the outside looking in at the Bills line when the team signed former Chief Mitch Morse to a four-year, $44 million contract this offseason.
Having started all 74 games of his five NFL seasons, Bodine was suddenly a man without a job. At the same time, the Patriots were placing captain and starting center David Andrews on season-ending injured reserve due to reported blood clots in his lungs, hence the trade.
“Obviously getting traded right there at the end of preseason, little bit of a whirlwind. You get the phone call and you are getting here the same day,” Bodine said Sunday, shortly after his first practice in New England. “I think my goal is just to get in here and get caught up on the system as fast as I can and do what I can to contribute.”
One thing that may help expedite the process is the fact that Buffalo’s offensive coordinator is Brian Daboll, a former New England assistant. Bodine has already noticed “a little bit of similarities” but doesn’t have a firm hold on how long it will take him to get up to speed in his new home.
“Just hopefully as fast as possible,” he said. “Spend some extra time, making sure you’re doing everything you can do to put yourself in position to be successful.
“It’s professional football. They pay you to be in here and know what you are doing. That’s exactly what I’m going to try to do.”
Bill Belichick noted Bodine’s impressive resume – the 2014 fourth-round pick out of UNC started from day one with the Bengals and has never looked back – even compared to the group he’s joining that includes proven starters in left guard Joe Thuney, right guard Shaq Mason and right tackle Marcus Cannon.
“Russell's had a solid career and quite a bit of experience playing center for Cincinnati and then most recently for Buffalo,” Belichick said. ”He's also played guard in the past, so we'll see how it goes. He's – at this point – one of the more experienced players on our team in terms of NFL experience. So, we'll see how all of that comes together.”
While veteran reserve Ted Karras likely will get the first shot to fill the void at center – the former fourth-round pick has started just five games in his first three seasons -- Bodine could very well be line for the job once he acclimates to the scheme.
“I'm not sure exactly how this will turn out,” Belichick admitted.
And Bodine didn’t shy away from the fact that he has an eye on starting.
“Obviously I think everybody in the locker room, everybody’s goal is to get out there and be playing,” Bodine said. “It is what it is. I’m just here to do what I can to contribute and get caught up as fast as I can.”
One area where Karras clearly has an advantage is a history playing with Tom Brady. Belichick described the relationship between the quarterback and center as, “an important one.” Bodine has already begun the process of building a rapport with the guy he hopes to be snapping to in the very near future.
“We took a couple,” Bodine said of practice snaps with Brady. “It is what it is. Early impressions, he was more than helpful. I just told him anything he needs from me, anything I can do, let me know. Don’t be afraid to tell me. I lump that in with getting here and getting meshed with the system as fast as you can and get going.”