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Ex-Patriots offensive lineman Ted Karras still has plenty of fans in New England

Related: Meet the Bengals: Patriots face one of the hottest teams in football in Week 16

Cincinnati Bengals v Tennessee Titans Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

When the New England Patriots take on the Cincinnati Bengals on Christmas eve, they will se a few familiar faces on the other sideline. Most prominent among those is Ted Karras.

A sixth-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2016, Karras spent the first four seasons of his career in New England. After a short interlude in Miami in 2020, he returned for another season in 2021 before signing a three-year, $18 million deal with the Bengals this offseason.

But while he will be wearing a different uniform on Saturday, Karras still has plenty of fans at One Patriot Place.

“Ted’s the best,” said center David Andrews. “I’m very fortunate to have that friendship and relationship with him, on a personal note. On a football level, he’s got a great football mind. He really works at it. Lot of respect for how he carried himself here, and so happy for him. He went to Miami and then came back, and then obviously edged out a role here last year; it really helped our team.

“Knew, when he landed, he’ll always make an impact somewhere. That’s just the kind of guy he is. Ultimate respect for Teddy. Always love him and have a lot of great memories with him.”

While Andrews has not looked back since taking over the starting center role in his sophomore season in 2016, Karras flew under the radar his first few seasons in New England. Between 2016 and 2018, he started just five games while serving primarily in a reserve role.

When Andrews was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs in 2019, however, Karras was asked to step up. And step up he did, starting 15 games and positioning himself well for a trip to free agency.

“Came in as a rookie, worked hard, got bounced around a lot but he hung in there,” said head coach Bill Belichick on Thursday. “Was on the practice squad for a short time, I think his second year. Then David got hurt, started at center all year.”

Karras turned his season filling in for Andrews into a one-year, $3 million deal with the Dolphins, for whom he started 16 games and served as a captain. The following offseason, he returned to the Patriots and eventually ended up starting 13 more games at left guard.

Despite his starting experience, the Patriots did not bring Karras back during this year’s offseason. In turn, he joined the Bengals where he was also immediately voted a captain.

“Tough. Good energy. Smart. Plays hard. Always plays with high effort,” Belichick said about Karras’ positive attributes.

“Every day he has a big smile on his face, ready to go. But working hard — he smiles when he works hard, smiles when things aren’t going well. Just looks forward to the next play. He doesn’t dwell on anything negative in the past. He’s happy when he wins and looks ahead to the next opportunity if it doesn’t go as well. Got a great outlook.”

Karras will made his 15th start for Cincinnati on Saturday, and 66th overall since arriving in the NFL.