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Patriots’ Ted Karras finds himself in the middle of things

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In captain David Andrews’ absence, Ted Karras projects as New England’s center.

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Ted Karras has started five games since his tenure with the New England Patriots began in 2016.

Three have come at right guard. Two have come at center. And the latter is where Karras, a veteran of 45 career NFL appearances and a brief stint on the practice squad, is expected to pivot forth for the immediate future.

With team captain David Andrews’ season in doubt after being hospitalized to treat a blood clot in his lungs, as Jeff Howe of The Athletic first reported, Karras is the projected reliever heading into Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 8.

It’s not something the former sixth-round draft choice out of Illinois takes lightly.

“The news that broke, I’m going to let Dave speak for himself,” Karras told reporters following practice on Tuesday, via Patriots.com. “I love David as a brother, and he’s a great man and a great football player.”

It was a practice that Andrews was able to observe after being released from the hospital Monday evening.

“It is great,” Karras said of Andrews’ presence at Gillette Stadium. “Obviously, he’s a big part of the team. He’s been a leader for us for a long time now, and just having him around is a big plus for our unit and our team.”

Andrews has started 57 games in the regular season and an additional nine in the playoffs since arriving as an undrafted rookie back in the spring of 2015. The Georgia product, who’d been named team MVP as a Bulldogs senior, signed a three-year, $9 million extension with the Patriots following his second NFL campaign.

As for Karras, he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after this campaign.

“We’re the same age but I’ve learned a lot from him,” added the 26-year-old Karras. “He came in a year earlier, and I can’t say enough good things about Dave Andrews. A dear friend of mine and a guy that I’ve been privileged to play a long time with now.”

Karras saw five snaps at center this past regular season, according to Pro Football Focus, and his previous two starts there surfaced in 2017 versus the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins when Andrews was sidelined due to illness.

“You’ve got to make the calls,” Karras said of the center position. “But I’ve been doing it. I’ve been around here for a while. Just coming to work every day, it’s not that much different. You’ve got to snap the ball, though. That’s the biggest difference.”

No starting center has been named for New England’s opening day. In all likelihood, no starting center will. Veteran James Ferentz, rookie fourth-rounder Hjalte Froholdt and undrafted free agent Tyler Gauthier round out New England’s conversation.

But the unassuming Karras finds himself in the middle of it.

“I feel compelled to come in every day and really just work my hardest, take to coaching and try to do whatever I can to help the team in whatever role that may be,” Karras said.