FOXBOROUGH — As the Patriots make their final preparations for Sunday night’s showdown with the Green Bay Packers, the team will likely be without starting right guard Shaq Mason (calf).
With Mason on the shelf, the Patriots will turn to their version of a utility man in backup Ted Karras.
Karras has only started three games in three seasons in the NFL, but he’s the teams top backup at all three interior positions along the offensive line.
Karras will likely make his first start at right guard since his rookie season this week, yet in true Patriots fashion, he said his preparations this week won’t change.
“I prepare the same every week,” Karras said in the Patriots locker room on Friday. “I’ve been around here for a while with kind of the same role. If the time comes, I’ve always been ready.”
The Patriots’ 2016 sixth-round pick has been very reliable for the Pats when called upon throughout his NFL career.
Last season, Karras filled in for an injured David Andrews at center for two weeks and allowed only three total pressures (zero sacks) in pass protection with a solid 71.8 overall grade from Pro Football Focus.
(#75 at center)
In particular, Karras was dominant at times as a run blocker in the game against Oakland in Mexico City a year ago and flashed those run blocking skills in the 2018 preseason as well.
Karras’ versatility has allowed him to earn a roster spot over the years as he can play multiple positions along the interior of the offensive line, something that sounds difficult but appeared to come naturally to the Illinois product.
“I think at first my rookie year I had never played center before, so learning how to get into a left-handed stance was a challenge. But other than that, I’ve been fortunate to carve out a spot for myself the last three years, and it’s been my job. I really take it seriously,” Karras said.
Karras and the rest of the Patriots offensive line will have their hands full on Sunday night with Green Bay’s front seven.
The Packers are third in the NFL in pressure percentage (41 percent) and fourth in blitz percentage (37 percent) bringing rushers from multiple spots along the defensive line.
For Karras, in particular, he’ll have to deal with an interior defensive line duo of Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels that’s playing at an extremely high level.
“Those guys are great,” Karras said. “The Packers have a lot of great players on the other side. [Kenny] Clark, [Mike] Daniels, [Tyler] Lancaster, they have a whole crew inside, and we are definitely going to have to bring our best.”
It’s unclear how long the Patriots will be without starting right guard Shaq Mason, arguably their best offensive lineman and a player they signed to a multi-year extension in August.
But for the time being, the team will rely on Karras until Mason returns.