Rookie Klecko proving a versatile addition to injury-plagued Patriots

Updated: October 6, 2003, 4:50 PM ET

FOXBORO, Mass. -- The New England Patriots are quickly discovering how versatile rookie Dan Klecko is.

In Sunday's 38-30 win over Tennessee, Klecko played nose tackle, defensive tackle in a 4-3 alignment, outside linebacker and even saw time as a blocking fullback in goal-line situations, clearing the way for rushing touchdowns by Antowain Smith and Mike Cloud.

"I'm just willing to take whatever comes," the fourth-round draft choice from Temple said Monday. "I feel that's how I'm going to get on the field, by doing anything they ask."

Klecko is proving so versatile, in fact, it's becoming increasingly tough to list his position on the team's roster. Drafted as a nose tackle, Klecko has evolved into a play-anywhere option for the injury-ravaged Patriots.

"I was just happy to be out there, especially after the first two weeks of not suiting up or anything," Klecko said. "Every minute I have out there now is a blessing, and I realize that."

Klecko has a great pedigree -- he's the son of former New York Jets nose tackle Joe Klecko, a four-time Pro Bowler. The younger Klecko said his father has been very helpful as he continues to search for a niche on the team.

He also came to the Patriots with a good reputation. Klecko was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, recording 68 tackles with 10 sacks.

The one knock against Klecko is his size. The 5-foot-11, 283-pounder had the Patriots coaching staff wondering what role to use him in after they drafted him. But coach Bill Belichick said it was a familiar quandary for the Patriots, likening Klecko's situation to that of inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who was considered undersized in his rookie season in 1996.

"He was a good football player, but we didn't know exactly what to do with him and he obviously has created a good role for himself and has had a great career," Belichick said of Bruschi. "Whether that will or won't happen with Dan, I don't know, but that would be a good comparison there."

Bruschi, currently tied with safety Rodney Harrison for the team lead in tackles with 36, said he tells Klecko the same things he learned when he came out of Arizona.

"Study," Bruschi said. "The one thing that players who have to learn multiple positions have to be is smart. On one series, you could be at one position, then at another position on the very next down."

Klecko, who has six tackles, a sack and a blocked field goal so far, appreciates the Bruschi's help.

"I go to ask him what he reads, and what specific things he looks at," Klecko said. "I try to take the things he knows, because it would be pretty dumb of me not to go ask him questions.

"He's one of the best middle linebackers in the league now and I'm trying to get there by learning through him."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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