David Andrews’ potential as an NFL center was already on full display during his 2015 rookie season, when he started a combined 11 games as an injury replacement, but it was the following offseason that he solidified his standing on the team: the former undrafted free agent beat out incumbent Bryan Stork in training camp and never looked back, starting 55 of a possible 57 possible games over the next three seasons — including three Super Bowls.
His quest to make it four straight title game appearances came to an early end, however, when he was hospitalized last August and later diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs. The diagnosis forced Andrews to spend his entire 2018 campaign on the sidelines, watching from afar as the New England Patriots’ offense ran out of gas late in the year and into a one-and-done playoff performance.
Now, Andrews is back on the field: the 28-year-old was cleared to return to the field earlier this offseason, and despite his medical record decided not to opt out of the 2020 campaign. This decision, coupled with him being back on the practice field for the first time on Wednesday, led to a positive response by some of his teammates — namely fellow offensive lineman Shaq Mason and running back Rex Burkhead.
“It’s great having David back in the lineup and back healthy. That’s our guy. It’s always great having him back in the lineup and back able to contribute to our O-line,” said Mason during a media conference call on following New England’s first full-team practice. Mason, the Patriots’ starting right guard, has of course been playing and practicing alongside Andrews ever since the two arrived in the league five years ago.
Burkhead joined the duo two years later, but his impression of Andrews as a teammate — and what his returns means for the Patriots’ new-look offense — is equally positive. The veteran back, who is entering his fourth year with the organization, praised its starting center not just for his qualities on the field but off it as well.
“It’s huge,” Burkhead said about getting Andrews back. “David, he’s an unbelievable player, not only just a player but a captain for this team, a leader for this team, and just what else he brings. He’s a master communicator up front to get everyone in the right position, moving on the same page. And he does it every single day with consistency. He’s a great guy to follow for those young guys in that room to really go to if they have any questions.”
With the Patriots having lost not just quarterback Tom Brady over the course of the offseason, but fellow veterans such as fullback James Develin and right tackle Marcus Cannon as well, this leadership aspect Andrews offers could be particularly big in 2020. The sixth-year man is therefore again projected to play a pivotal role for the team both as the literal centerpiece of its offensive line and as one of the offense’s elder statesmen.