New England Patriots Sign Nate Solder

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Nate Solder’s brief holdout is over. The first-round draft pick signed with New England and joined the Patriots at practice on Thursday.

“It’s good to have all the draft choices signed,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We’re really looking forward to getting as many people out there on the field as we can.”

Although the Patriots re-signed veteran Matt Light this week to continue protecting quarterback Tom Brady’s blind side, they see Solder as their future at left tackle.

“He’s big. He can run. He’s a good pass blocker. He’s a good run blocker, plays on his feet. He’s long,” Belichick said before Thursday’s practice.

Solder is a 6-foot-8, 319-pound converted tight end. He moved one spot inside on the offensive line early in his career and ended it as a first-team All-American lineman last year at Colorado. He was also a finalist for the Outland Trophy, awarded to the nation’s best interior lineman.

New England selected Solder with the 17th pick in the draft. The urgency to get him to practice was lessened earlier this week when New England re-signed Light, who is entering his 11th season with the Patriots.

The Patriots could put Solder on the other side of the line and get him playing right away, but Belichick said the plan is still to keep Solder on the left side behind Light.

“That’s what he played. And he played it well. That’s why we drafted him. But can he play right tackle? I think he has the skill set to, but we’ll see,” Belichick said. “Eventually, everybody is going to have to block big guys, fast guys, quick guys, games, blitzes. Everybody will get tested sooner or later.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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