Vollmer happy to be back with Patriots

Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who recently signed a four-year contract to keep him in New England, said Thursday he was glad to be continuing his career with the team that drafted him in 2009.

"This is the place I wanted to be, and luckily I'm still here, and I think thankful would describe it most," he said of staying with the Patriots. "I'm just really thankful to the Kraft family and coach [Bill Belichick] and whoever else was involved [in the contract negotiation]."

The 28-year-old Vollmer’s deal is worth a maximum of $27 million over the four years.

Coming out of the University of Houston in 2009, Vollmer was a largely unknown prospect who had not been invited to the combine. The Patriots surprised many by drafting him in the second round, but Vollmer proved to be a worthy investment, and the faith the team showed him coming out of college is among the reasons he wanted to return.

"I think it's a lot of things," he said. "First, just being drafted here four years ago, I certainly haven't forgotten that. Just the whole tradition of winning, the coaches that are here, the players you are with, you kind of -- you know what you have here. I do appreciate the program and the leadership from Mr. Kraft and coach Belichick and the players we have. I really enjoy being a part of it, and I wanted to continue to be part of that."

In retaining Vollmer, the Patriots ensured that their entire starting offensive line from 2012 will remain intact next season, something the towering right tackle looks forward to.

"I certainly like it, obviously," he said. "When you play next to a guy for a few years and you practice next to a guy, you get certain things down, you kind of know how the other guy plays certain situations. You just get a feel for each other, and I think that is important."

The team and Vollmer reached an agreement on a deal on Sunday, nearly three weeks into the start of free agency. It's possible that Vollmer's health relating to a minor offseason knee surgery was one of the reasons it took time for a deal to be struck, but he indicated that he’s feeling "really good" and is back in the weight room working out.

Though he missed just one game in 2012, Vollmer has an injury history that includes back and knee issues, and the contract he signed features incentives relating to his playing time each season. In total, the deal includes nearly $10 million in incentives based on the number of snaps played and Pro Bowl selections, according to a league source.

He opted not to go into detail about the contract but maintained that staying healthy is his primary goal entering every season.

"You go into a season, you try to be healthy, you do everything you can -- sometimes you can't help it," he said. "Some things you can't prevent. ... Obviously, as players we do everything we can to stay healthy and prepare ourselves for the contact and physicality of the sport."

Vollmer was considered one of the premier free agents on the market this offseason, though there wasn't much -- if any -- speculation on other teams' interest prior to his new deal with the Patriots. Asked whether he had other suitors in free agency, Vollmer deflected the question.

"I'm just happy to be here now, and I don't think anything else really matters," he replied.

Vollmer has started 44 of the 51 career regular-season games in which he has played, and also has five postseason starts.