When he's been able to take the field, New England Patriots fourth year offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer has been on of the league's very best. Unfortunately for Vollmer, being healthy enough to actually see the field has been an issue as of late. Vollmer has had recurring back and ankle issues, the former of which go back to his early years in college with Houston. The recurring back issues cost him most of his 2011 campaign as well, as he was limited to just six games (although he did return for Super Bowl XLVI).
Now, according to the Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard, Vollmer has undergone yet another procedure to work on his troublesome back:
Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer was seen last week limping on his right ankle during a rehab workout, but that's not the injury expected to keep him out of the team's three-day mandatory mini-camp, which starts today in Foxborough.
Vollmer had a "small procedure'' to help get his back right for the upcoming season, according to a league source. It's not known what the procedure entailed.
I'm not sure what the definition of a "small" procedure is when it comes to back surgery, but it's clear that more than four months after the end of the postseason, Vollmer is still struggling to get healthy, which is never a good sign.
For Vollmer, it will be critically important to get healthy for the 2012 season, as he enters the final year of his contract with New England. I doubt the Patriots or any other team will pay big money for a tackle who can't see the field with consistency.
For the Patriots, they are looking especially thin at tackle following the retirement of long-time left tackle Matt Light. Light's replacement, Nate Solder, is expected to take over on the left side in 2012. Solder was the primary starter at right tackle when Vollmer was out with back issues in 2011. The Patriots top back-up at right tackle is likely 2011 fifth round pick Marcus Cannon, who is a bit of a wildcard heading into next season. The Patriots could also potentially start Robert Gallery at right tackle should Vollmer not be healthy. However, I don't really see that as an ideal option, considering that Gallery struggled significantly at left guard for Seattle last season, and a transition back to the outside might not be the best way to maximize his abilities.
The bottom line: Sebastian Vollmer's is critical to the depth and functionality of the Patriots offensive line heading into next season. Therefore, as he undergoes this back procedure, his health will be a key storyline to watch heading into training camp.