285 Pound Linebacker!

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  1. Nors

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    Switch on for Klecko: Move to linebacker progressing well
    By Kevin Mannix
    Thursday, August 26, 2004

    FOXBORO - Dan Klecko [news]'s statistics aren't particularly impressive, with four total tackles in two preseason games.

    And when you watch the games live and then repeat the experience via videotape, it's still hard to notice him on the field, except for the numeral on the back of his jersey. You don't usually see a number in the 90s dropping back into coverage trying to prevent completions to running backs and tight ends.

    And you're not going to hear Klecko talk of himself in positive terms. He has been well-versed in the art of speaking without saying much to promote himself. The son of Joe Klecko, a former Jets All-Pro defensive tackle who made headlines in New York through his play on the field, not his say in the locker room, knows enough not to say anything specific about his performance. He'll answer questions but won't reveal much.

    ``Coach is a better judge of that than me,'' Klecko said yesterday regarding his development at linebacker. ``I'm just trying to go out there, do my best and hopefully earn a spot on the team. I'm seeing things better but it's tough, really. There are things going on that I've never seen before from back there.

    ``Seeing more things from back there more often helps and I am hitting the hole faster, but there are times when I need a second to think about things before moving.''

    The former fourth-round draft pick is, in fact, making progress in his transition from lineman to inside linebacker in his second year in the NFL. Patriots [stats, news] coach Bill Belichick [news] said so yesterday.

    Early in his press conference, Belichick went away from his preferred mode of wordy generalities when asked about Klecko's development.

    ``He's definitely improving,'' the coach said. ``Considering he has only played the position for a month, he's doing pretty well and a lot better than a lot of guys who have played it a lot longer.''

    Which is why Klecko is still the fourth inside linebacker on the depth chart. Tedy Bruschi [news] and Roman Phifer are the starters-by-acclamation. Ted Johnson [news], a 10-year veteran, and Klecko are the first inside linebackers to come off the bench.

    But being on the field with the first group of reserves in the preseason doesn't automatically convert into playing time in the regular season, a topic Belichick quickly addressed with Parcellsian flair.

    ``I'm not talking about Dick Butkus here now,'' Belichick said of Klecko. ``But I do think he's done well. Through that and his versatility in other areas - special teams, rushing the passer and a little bit on offense (at fullback) - he's really created a good position for himself in terms of being able to be used by a team in a number of different spots.

    ``You could see the improvement in just one practice. There were things that he improved on (in Tuesday's practice) that were much better than they were a couple of days before. As long as that continues and he gets positive results on the practice field and he hopefully brings the improvement into game situations, he'll be fine.

    ``Again, he has a long way to go. . . . But what he's done, it has been good.''

    While he's looking for improvement in his play, Klecko understands where he was when this transition started.

    ``I'm giving myself a little leeway because I've only played two real games in there,'' he said. ``Hopefully, I'll get a little more time to learn the position than that. I didn't get a lot of work in the Cincinnati game, but I thought I was a little more aggressive when I did get on the field.''

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