FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Dan Connolly took a seat at the bar of the fancy French restaurant where his brother was the chef and started digging in.

One by one, the portions disappeared during that meal three years ago in Boston’s financial district.

“I felt like I exhausted my efforts on him, both quantitywise and creatively, and he still had room,” Patrick Connolly recalled. “I would say it was about 12 portions.

“He’s always been a pretty experimental eater. He’s open to trying anything, even when we were kids. I served him plenty of raw fish, shellfish, stuff like that.”

From his palate to the playing field, versatility is Dan Connolly’s strong suit.

He’s played left guard, right guard, center, tight end and fullback in just three seasons with the New England Patriots.

And, of course, he returns kicks.

Speeding and swerving despite his 313 pounds, Connolly ran a kickoff back 71 yards in Sunday night’s 31-27 win over the Green Bay Packers, the longest return by an offensive lineman since at least 1976 when the NFL started keeping complete records.

Does that worry Buffalo Bills Coach Chan Gailey as he prepares for Sunday’s game with the Patriots?

“I hope we don’t kick it to him, to be honest with you,” Gailey said with a laugh.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick wasn’t buying it.

“Yeah,” he said. “I bet Chan’s really worried about that.”

It may not be an issue because Connolly might miss the game. A victory over the Bills (4-10) would make the Patriots (12-2) the AFC’s top-seeded playoff team, but Connolly sat out the entire second half Sunday with a concussion and skipped practices Wednesday and Thursday.

He stayed in the game for three plays after his return ended at the 4-yard line with 2:04 left in the first half, the final one Tom Brady’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Hernandez as the Patriots trimmed Green Bay’s lead to 17-14.

“He just said he’s fine,” Patrick Connolly said Thursday.

Dan, who has not spoken with the media since his run, seems to take everything in stride.

Undrafted out of Southeast Missouri State, Connolly played four games with Jacksonville as a rookie in 2005. He spent the next season on injured reserve and was cut by the Jaguars on Sept. 1, 2007, the day before his 25th birthday. The Patriots signed him 11 days later to their practice squad, where he spent the rest of the season.

Connolly appeared in just one game in 2008, then started four of his 14 games in 2009.

He started the first seven games this season while left guard Logan Mankins stayed away in a contract dispute. Connolly came off the bench in the next game but has started the six since then at right guard in place of Stephen Neal, who is on injured reserve.

“Dan’s always well prepared,” Belichick said. “He kept working, kept getting better. He’s developed a role for himself and has been a very productive player for us.”

He’s famous now.

The video of Connolly’s return has received about 500,000 views on YouTube. The AFC special teams player of the week is no longer just a big, anonymous body in the trenches.

But his teammates never viewed him that way.

When Connolly was pulled down 4 yards shy of a touchdown, he got up with a huge smile, surrounded by ecstatic teammates. Some 200 miles away, Patrick Connolly and his wife were watching on television at their Manhattan home.

His kid brother just had the thrill of a career.

“I think we felt just total exhilaration and shock,” Patrick said. “That’s pretty much the ultimate dream for a lineman.”