For the six seasons from 2010 to 2015, Sebastian Vollmer manned the right side of the New England Patriots’ offensive line. Along the way, the 2009 second-round draft selection picked up 90 starts, a second-team All-Pro nomination, and a Super Bowl ring (he earned another one after the 2016 season that he spent on injured reserve). And while Vollmer stepped away from the game in May 2017, he still remains active promoting it.
Last month, for example, the 35-year-old appeared at an NFL-sponsored event in his native Germany. Spox’s Adrian Franke used the opportunity to catch up with Vollmer and also to speak with him about his former team — and it sure looks like the long-term Patriot is feeling confident about New England heading into the 2019 season. “I still have to see the Patriots no longer being strong in order to actually believe it,” he said.
The Patriots, of course, are once again coming off a Super Bowl win and Vollmer thinks they remain the team to beat despite some notable offseason departures. “You have to get by the reigning champions, and the Patriots have proven it time and again. By now, they are almost that good that they have to prove they no longer are. After all, it’s the same story each year: players X, Y and Z are gone, [Tom] Brady is old — and at the end of the day, they are still winning,” he said.
Arguably the biggest of those aforementioned departures is Rob Gronkowski, a teammate of Vollmer’s for seven seasons. The future Hall of Fame tight end announced his retirement in March, but comeback rumors started to emerge shortly afterwards. Vollmer, however, does not see Gronkowski return any time soon: “I don’t think, he will come back again. Just looking at his physical shape, I don’t think he’d be able to pull it off.”
Vollmer also added that he always thought that Gronkowski and the soon-to-be 42-year-old Brady would ride off into the sunset together. Now, however, that outlook has changed. “To be honest: no idea,” answered Vollmer when talking about the quarterback’s potential retirement date. “He keeps saying that he will play until 45, but I wonder why. I’m giving him two more years — but not because he told me, I’m just going with my gut. Who knows?”
The long-time offensive lineman also spoke about another senior member of the Patriots organization, assistant coach Dante Scarnecchia who worked with Vollmer for all but two of his seasons in the NFL. Scarnecchia, of course, is widely regarded as the premier offensive line coach in the league and his former pupil gave some insight into what makes him such an outstanding presence on the sidelines and in the meeting room.
“He is absolutely detail-oriented,” said Vollmer. “You only have to options with him: either you quit or you get better. There is no in-between. And that’s what happens, actually, some retire because they can’t handle the pressure. If you no longer can, you’ll just be let go. There’s an enormous pressure, but he is so good at what he does. He doesn’t accept any knickknack, any mistakes.”