Patriots’ first-round pick being helped by ‘mirror check’ and practice reps

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FOXBORO — It’s usually frowned upon to walk up to someone and ask, “Hey, did you gain weight?”

It’s not always a bad thing when addressing an offensive lineman, though. And for Patriots left guard Cole Strange, weight was an issue for the 2022 first-round pick as a rookie.

But Strange looked bigger in his return to the field in Week 7 from a knee injury, and it coincided with the Patriots’ best offensive line performance by far this season in Sunday’s win over the Bills.

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So, did Strange gain some weight?

“Yeah, a little bit,” Strange told the Herald. “I wasn’t trying to add too much because I wasn’t playing. So, it’s like if you’re just adding on a bunch of weight, then it’s probably just fat. But I was trying to gain the best weight I could.”

Strange said he felt “light” at times last year and that he was feeling better Week 7 against the Bills.

The Chattanooga product let up three hurries in that game.

“This year I felt a little bit more sure,” Strange said. “Like there are still dudes who are big and strong enough to move you out of the way, but I do feel a little bit better weight wise this year for sure.”

So, what exactly is the process for a 6-foot-5, 310-pound offensive line to add weight midseason?

“Eat as much as you can without — there’s a goal of weight that you try to get to,” Strange said. “You want to kind of slowly get there over time. Obviously you’re lifting and working out too. I’d say a mirror check every now and then is good. If I’m standing there and hitting one of those numbers, like I need to chill out, subtract the Little Debbies.”

It was mentioned to Strange that former Patriots offensive lineman Ted Karras would eat an entire box of cereal — with milk — every night to keep his weight up. Strange might give that a shot.

It’s better than the alternative he tried in the past.

“For a short period of time, and this is probably what led to me starting the mirror check because I was looking like a lard-ass, is I would get like a big bowl and put a bunch of Oreos in there and fill it up with milk and then eat it like cereal.

“I went to Trader Joe’s. They just have chocolates and cookies, and I got a bunch of that. And I was like, ‘I have to slow down on this.’”

So, now it’s back to chicken and rice for Strange. And maybe some nightly cereal.

It’s helped him immensely to be back on the practice field in recent weeks. Strange missed most of training camp with a knee injury suffered on the first day of padded practices. It even kept him out of Week 1. He was back on the field for Week 2 before suffering another knee injury late in the Patriots’ Week 3 win over the Jets. He started Week 7 but is still officially listed as limited on the injury report.

“The best thing you can do is taking mental reps and watching film and trying to stay locked in that way,” Strange said. “But there’s really no replacement for just going through those movements, for me at least. Some guys I think can watch film and don’t have to practice. They’re just good. But I gotta practice and even then, I’ve got to practice for weeks so I can get back into my groove. It’s tough not being able to do that.”

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