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Silvestro making transition to TE - The Sun Chronicle : Patriots

Silvestro making transition to TE

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Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2012 12:00 am

FOXBORO - Sometimes, it's the last resort.

A football player goes through most of his college career playing a position on one side of the ball, and gets signed as an undrafted free agent by a pro team. But that team doesn't quite know what to do with him, so it starts to experiment - and before long, the player in question is re-invented.

It may be the only way for him to stick in the pros. So, needless to say, he complies and tries his best.

"In college, I only played defense," said Alex Silvestro, former defensive end from Rutgers, who's trying to learn how to play tight end for the New England Patriots. "The last time I played anything besides defense was high school. I came from a small school and played anything I could - offense, defense, special teams, I even punted."

Silvestro already has a touch of noteworthiness in Patriots' lore. He was the player signed to the 53-man roster on the eve of Super Bowl XLVI, replacing wide receiver Tiquan Underwood, who had practiced the whole week in preparation for the game against the Giants. But that was when Silvestro was a defensive end, which probably seems like a lifetime ago to him.

Silvestro, a native of Gibbstown, N.J., was told during the spring that the Patriots were going to make a change. He was, understandably, "a little bit surprised. I thought someone was playing a prank on me. I was like, 'Really? OK, sure.' I didn't really expect it, so when it happened I was like, 'Yeah, why not?'"

Through the organized team activities and minicamps, Silvestro tried to adjust his way of thinking to the offensive mindset.

"In the spring, I just kind of morphed into it," he said. "The only other time I did it before was just for scout team to help out in practice because obviously you only have so many practice guys. So I would just hop in; I'd hop in on special teams, too, so whatever."

Fortunately, he was aided in the effort by two of the best in the game, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

"There are a whole lot of people in the tight end room now and a bunch of them have experience," Silvestro said. "Anything that George (Godsey, tight ends coach) says and then they kind of give you a little player perspective on it, too. So that's good to have experienced people in front of you to watch and learn from."

But it's not easy to dismiss a lifetime of defensive play in one training camp. Silvestro was originally recruited by Rutgers as a linebacker, but became the Scarlet Knights' defensive MVP in 2010 at end.

"Honestly, I think it just helps me understand the game a little bit better," he said, claiming that he can apply his past to what he's doing now. "I think about, 'On this play what would I do if I were the defensive end?' Whereas before, I wouldn't really think much about what the tight end was thinking. I would just try to defeat the block.

"Now I'm thinking about what the defensive end might do," he said. "I know that I got this block and I see this read. I can have an understanding of what the defensive guy will do before the play happens."

The offense isn't coming naturally to him quite yet. He has endured his share of drops in practice, and he was targeted twice without a catch in Thursday night's preseason-opening 7-6 win over New Orleans. The first was on a pass over the middle from Hoyer on the first play of the Patriots' initial second-quarter possession, and the second was on the opening offensive play of the third quarter, a short pass from Hoyer from the Patriots' 3.

"Each and every day, I've tried to get a little better," Silvestro said. "Obviously you don't want to take any steps back, but some days you're going to have better practices than others. I just keep trying to go out here and do the best I can and improve as much as I can, as fast as I can."

The commitment appears to be there on the part of the Patriots; they changed Silvestro's number from a defensive lineman's 69 to a tight end's 49.

"It doesn't really matter what number I have as long as I have one," he said, laughing.

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