On Thursday, July 15, 2015, Daniel Connolly announced his retirement from the NFL. Connolly left the league a proud champion after winning the Superbowl with the New England Patriots this past season. Connolly is remembered for his versatility, ability to adapt, and toughness. Connolly’s most memorable play was his 71-yard kick-off return in week 15 of the 2010 season. Playing dominantly as a left guard, Connolly could be counted on to play center and right guard, if necessary. On Thursday, coach Belichick stated, “Dan Connolly exemplified everything our program requires of players. He was tough and dependable, smart and team oriented and his work ethic ensured he improved on an annual basis to reach his potential. From where his career began as a developmental player to where it finished as a team leader and champion Dan Connolly was a player I was proud to coach.” Daniel Connolly joined the patriots practice squad in 2007, worked his way into starting 13 games in the 2010 season, and started at least ll games in every season since.
Connolly has decided to retire from football while he is still healthy, “It’s important to leave the game healthy, I’m able to be here for my own kids and walk away on my own terms. I feel like I got everything I could out of football in playing 10 years, winning a Super Bowl, and playing alongside some truly great players.” Colony stated on Thursday while announcing his retirement.
Filling Connolly’s gap won’t be easy. The Patriots look towards offensive linemen Marcus Cannon, Ryan Wendell, and Bryan Stork. Ryan Wendell, signed by the Patriots in 2008, has replaced Connolly twice before, in the final two games of the 2010 season. In week 5 of the 2014 season, Wendell started as right guard where he would successfully play for the remainder of the Superbowl winning season. Bryan stork, fourth round draft pick by the Patriots in 2014, started 11 games last season at center. Lastly, there is Marcus Cannon, fifth round draft pick by the Patriots in 2011, who seems to be the right replacement for Connolly; however, at the beginning of the 2014 season, Cannon started as left guard and struggled, only to be substituted by Connolly. Cannon returned to his role as swing tackle for the New England Patriots. With Cannon, Wendell, and Stork playing successfully in their respective positions, it will be difficult for Belichick and his coaching staff to confidently decide on a replacement for Connolly that will lead to the same achievements as Connolly’s leadership in his last and final season.