Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Patriots' Kelly 'knocking the rust off,' feels fine


The New England Patriots were really excited about their defensive pairing up the middle heading into last season.

Present as always would be defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who hadn't missed a game since 2009 and was coming off a season where he had been selected to the Pro Bowl for the fourth consecutive year. Then there was fellow veteran Tommy Kelly, brought in to help Band-Aid the team's rushing defense and provide some stability of his own next to the reliable Wilfork.

What happened next was a crushing blow to the team's defensive core -- Wilfork ruptured his Achilles in Week 4, while Kelly tore his ACL one week later.

Both would sit out the rest of the season, and the run defense paid dearly. The team finished 30th in the league against the run, allowing an average of more than 130 yards per game on average and 4.5 yards per attempt.

Both men were present and participating the first day of Patriots mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, however, and the 33-year-old Kelly recently told Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston that he has no second-guessing going on with his knee following 10 months of surgery and recovery.

"I feel fine, it's just getting back to making moves and knocking the rust off," Kelly said. "I'm not too much worried about my knee."

Kelly hadn't missed a start in 85 games prior to his injury, likely a big reason New England decided to take a chance on the vet during free agency last year. He compiled 14.5 total sacks during the 2010-11 seasons, though after a restructured contract in March (one year, $1.805 million), he's just looking to regain the trust of his coach and teammates as he enters his 11th season.

"You have to go through the process of proving to Bill [Belichick] that your knee is healthy enough, prove to your coaches that your knee is strong enough and getting your teammates to trust you," he said, via CBS Boston. "I’m very happy, but you can’t get too high about it or can’t get too low about it. Just keep working and whatever happens, happens. But I’m going to be OK."

As for his partner in crime, Wilfork was back in action as well Tuesday, and Kelly told Reiss that the defensive captain is "going to get it done." 

"I don't think we should worry too much about him."

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