- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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When the Patriots were forced to shuffle their offensive line in a critical late December game against the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, unheralded rookie Josh Kline was inserted into the mix at left guard for his first career NFL start.
That vote of confidence, coupled with Kline delivering a solid performance as the Patriots clinched the AFC East title in convincing fashion, reflects how Kline (6-foot-3, 310 pounds) could be a vital player for the team in years to come.
He went undrafted out of Kent State in 2013, but quickly won over his teammates.
“I think the thing that stands out about Josh the most is that you can’t rattle the guy,” center Ryan Wendell said Sunday on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
“He’s a flat-liner emotionally, which goes a long way as an offensive lineman. Nothing is too big for him and he never gets too low. He just keeps trucking. He’ll make a mistake or something like that in practice, and he doesn’t mind getting [yelled at]. He just comes back the next play and works harder at it. Some guys don’t have that kind of mental toughness, but Josh really does. I think that’s what stands out the most about him.”
Wendell’s remarks were delivered as part of Bob Socci’s NFL draft preview show.
A few other soundbites from Wendell, who in late March inked a two-year deal to return to New England:
On his free-agent experience. “It was definitely something different, but it was such a blessing. Just to have the career that I’ve been able to have here at the Patriots, to even have the opportunity to become a free agent, and to market my skills out there and things like that, it was a blessing to have that opportunity. And then to be able to sign back with the Patriots, to be where I want to be, to stay here, to stay home, it was great. I’m very thankful for that.”
Reflecting on joining the team as a rookie free agent in 2008. “Once the draft ends, you start getting phone calls from various teams that are looking for free agents, and these different teams will call with different personnel. I think the importance of who they’re trying to get is who they send to come and call you, and when Bill Belichick calls you and spends 20 minutes on the phone with you trying to convince you to come to New England, it’s hard to turn down.”
Having all offensive linemen return from 2013. “It’s great any time you can get an entire offensive line back. Being able to have those same guys next to you, over time, it goes a long way. I would also say, the guys that are our backups, that have rotated in, have all done a great job – guys like Marcus Cannon, Will Svitek and rookies like Josh Kline. Our guys all do a great job and I think no matter who comes in the room, we’ll all work hard to make a solid unit that can perform every Sunday.”