FOXBOROUGH — David Andrews kept showing up at Patriots training camp practices last summer. And not just on the daily attendance sheet. He kept showing up as a standout in drill after drill.
A little-known undrafted free agent from Georgia, he was plugged in at center between two drafted rookies and charged with safely delivering the ball to Tom Brady.
He never flinched. He flourished.
With incumbent center Bryan Stork on short-term injured reserve with a concussion and neck ailment, Andrews slid in seamlessly and played every snap as the Patriots raced to a 10-0 start.
Things are a little different for Andrews this summer. Oh, he’s still showing up every day but this season, he’s not going to be handed the starter’s job. He’s going to have to battle Stork for it. So far, it’s a battle he’s winning.
Andrews has been consistently getting the first-team reps in practice and was front and center for the first snap of Thursday night’s 23-22 preseason victory over the Bears.
Andrews has been enjoying the fight.
“Competition, that’s how you get better,’’ he said. “You have to have competition. It’s the NFL, so there’s competition every day, every week, every second. Competition can only make you better.’’
Stork, who suffered a concussion early on in camp but has been back in action for more than a week, has been working with the second team but also mixing in with the starters.
Andrews, who indicated he has a “good relationship” with Stork and that they “use each other as a resource,” said he blocks out who he’s competing against and, instead, just competes.
“All that matters is going out there and competing every day, doing your job with whoever’s in there,” said Andrews. “Don’t worry about the rest, just go out there and compete, do your job to the best of your ability, and the rest will take care of itself.’’
Andrews tries to keep his focus strictly on football as outside distractions can only bog him down.
“I don’t worry about what’s going on around me,’’ said Andrews. “I just go out every day and try to be the best player I can be to help the team and worry about my craft and what I need to do better and what I can do to help this team.’’
Bill Belichick has noticed several improvements in Andrews’s play
“[He has] a lot more experience, and confidence, and quicker reactions, and calls on the line of scrimmage than he did last year. Not that it was bad last year, it was good,’’ said the coach. “It was really good for a rookie . . . We do some things with the cadence and he does a real good job with that as well. There are a lot of things that he has added to his game, little things, but those add up. He’s done a good job.’’
Alan Branch was suspended by the team, according to several reports, with NESN.com the first to report the news the veteran defensive tackle was telling teammates about the punishment.
The length of the suspension was not immediately known, but ESPN said it was “a team-based issue,’’ so it’s unlikely Branch will miss anything more than a few days.
Asked Thursday night what led to Branch not being with the club, Belichick said, “That’s a club matter.”
Branch started camp on the non-football injury list for the second straight season, but has had a solid camp since his return.
Branch joined the Patriots in October 2014, a few months after he was arrested for DUI and promptly cut by the Bills.
The nine-year veteran started 15 games last season with 33 tackles, a sack, and two forced fumbles.
Malcom Brown and Markus Kuhn started at defensive tackle against the Bears with Anthony Johnson mixing in on the first drive.
Video: Ben Volin analyzes Patriots-Bears
Brady a late scratch
After initial reports Brady would start Thursday’s game (Belichick said pregame, “You’ll see all three quarterbacks tonight”) the QB was nowhere to be found. According to CSNNE, Brady was scratched after cutting his hand with a pair of scissors while trying to pry something out of the bottom of his cleat. Jimmy Garoppolo, who will replace Brady for the first four weeks of the regular season, got the start . . . Among the other notable Patriots not playing were Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Logan Ryan . . . Team president Jonathan Kraft was asked pregame about the possibility of the Patriots being on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and he answered bluntly, “Probably not happening.’’ . . . Howie Long was spotted on the New England sideline chatting with Andre Tippet before the game. Long’s sons were both in action, with Chris playing defensive end for the Patriots and Kyle playing guard for the Bears . . . Belichick said on his pregame radio show the team has “good depth on paper” at defensive end when asked about recent injuries to Rob Ninkovich (torn triceps) and Jabaal Sheard (undisclosed). The coach said both are “working hard to get back.’’ Chris Long and Trey Flowers started at defensive end Thursday night . . . Rookie free agent tight end Steven Scheu was doing some long snapping during pregame warmups. It appears he would get the call in a pinch. Ninkovich is normally Joe Cardona’s insurance plan . . . The back judge was Shawn Hochuli, the son of veteran official Ed Hochuli. Shawn is in his first season as an NFL official . . . The national anthem was sung by Norton native Timmy Brown . . . The Patriots won’t play a game at Gillette until Sept. 18 against the Dolphins and Brady’s next home game will be Oct. 16 against the Bengals.