FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — They’re here to block, not talk.

That was obvious to any reporter who approached a New England Patriots offensive lineman this week.

“You’ve just got to work hard and get yourself in the best possible position,” center Bryan Stork said in answer to every question Tuesday, doing his best Marshawn Lynch impersonation.

“That’s honestly a question for the coaches,” left guard Shaq Mason demurred when asked if he was happy with his performance in his rookie season.

“I don’t think you make too many adjustments now. So I think it’s just practice and getting on the same page,” left tackle Sebastian Vollmer offered, in what constituted a rambling response from the tight-lipped group.

New England’s offensive line has been maligned much of the year. In 16 games the team started 13 combinations in front of quarterback Tom Brady, a revolving door exacerbated when tackle Nate Solder was lost for the season after a Week 5 biceps injury. Eight other offensive linemen saw action, three of them rookies like Mason, but none appeared in more than 14 games.

They’re as healthy as can be coming off a bye week and ready to tangle with the Kansas City Chiefs on Saturday in an AFC divisional playoff game. Vollmer is back from a leg injury that kept him out of a season-ending loss at Miami. Josh Kline at right guard and Marcus Cannon at right tackle figure to round out the quintet of starters.

“Those guys have been banged up, guys playing different positions each week. It’s tough on them but they’ve been doing a great job with it,” Patriots running back James White said. “I think they’re trying to play with more confidence, and I think they’re going to do that.”

It’s certainly what Brady is longing to see. He was sacked 38 times this season and found himself under increasing pressure as the Patriots lost four of their final six games. Not having favorite target Julian Edelman didn’t help, nor did the lack of a consistent ground game.

Edelman will return after missing seven games with a broken foot. Veteran Steven Jackson has been signed to help with a rushing game that averaged only 87.8 yards per outing.

But the biggest boost Brady can get is for his blockers to keep him upright against a Chiefs defense that recorded 47 sacks, fourth-best in the NFL this season.

“It’s a bunch of guys that have been nicked up over the course of the season, and as many guys that can be healthy as possible, that’s what we’re going to need,” Brady said.

Kline, a third-year pro out of Kent State, knows what is expected from the line. Brady is never shy about reminding teammates if their play is subpar, especially this time of the year.

“It needs to be perfect every time and that’s what we strive for,” Kline said after a regular season that saw him start six times at left guard and seven times at right.

“You’ve got to have a short memory in this league or you’re not going to last long. You’ve just got to let it go. They’ve got a pretty good pass rush, don’t they? It’s going to be a challenge.”

Mason got the other 10 starts at left guard and has acquitted himself the best among the rookies (David Andrews and Tre’ Jackson are the others). A fourth-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech, he will see his first playoff action, on a team that expects to win Super Bowls.

“Coming from college to here, it’s a job now. It’s 24 hours basically of football. It’s a great thing but it’s an adjustment,” Mason said.

“We prepare every game like it’s this magnitude. You know it’s a different type of game but you take the same preparation.”

Vollmer, the veteran of the group in his seventh year, said it will boil down to communication after a season of turmoil on the offensive line.

“They throw a lot of stuff at you and if you’re not on the same page with the other four guys, it’s not going to be a good result,” he said.

 


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