When first questioned, New England Patriots left guard Logan Mankins
budged about as much as he does on the field.
After practicing for the first time Sunday since offseason surgery to
repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, the
310-pound perennial Pro Bowler admitted he was surprised when he
learned the diagnosis following the Patriots' 21-17 loss to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl in February.
''I'm not going to get into when it happened because it happened a long
time ago,'' said Mankins, sporting a brace on his right knee. ''A lot
longer than then you would have thought it happened. It wasn't 100
percent, but it was still functional.''
With a little prodding, Mankins eventually backed off his stance,
divulging more information about the timeline of the injury.
Was he injured before the Super Bowl?
''Yeah,'' he said.
During the regular season?
''Possibly,'' he added with a wry smile.
Despite knowing that something was wrong with his knee, perhaps even a
torn ACL at the time, Mankins said playing in the Super Bowl was never
a question, especially with his pain threshold being ''pretty good.''
''The Super Bowl was a tough one. I was banged up a little bit, but
everyone was at that point of the year,'' Mankins said. ''Everyone knew
something wasn't quite right, so that's why we had an MRI after the
game to see what was wrong.
''I could still run so there was no reason to sit out. There was no
MRIs or anything so we never knew what exactly was hurt. If you could
still run and play, there's no reason to go see a doctor, right?''
Mankins' presence Sunday was a welcome sight for quarterback Tom Brady
and the rest of the Patriots' offense, even if he participated only in
light drills with no contact or pads and for only about half of the
''Seeing a guy like him, he's been in the Pro Bowl multiple times and a
great leader on our team and a tough guy, it's great to have him out
here, and especially what he's had to overcome this offseason,'' said
receiver Wes Welker, who tore an ACL and MCL at the end of the 2010
season. ''I definitely have an appreciation for what he's had to go
through this offseason.
''Logan is about as tough as they come. For him to be out there on the
field, that doesn't surprise me one bit.''
Patriots coach Bill Belichick echoed that sentiment.
''Nobody's worked harder than Logan,'' he said. ''He comes in early,
stays late, works hard. We know he's a really tough, dependable guy and
he's put a lot into it.''
His timing couldn't have been much better, either.
The seven-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler adds a much-needed
veteran presence to an unstable offensive line that seemed shaky in New
England's 7-6 preseason victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday.
Other than Mankins' absence, the biggest void was left by the offseason
retirement of three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light. And guard
Brian Waters, a six-time Pro Bowler, still hasn't reported to training
camp, so his status with the team is in limbo.
Mankins felt he had to return as soon as he could.
''I knew I needed to be here as one of the older guys of the line, just
to help out younger guys, lead by example, stuff like that,'' he said.
''Like I said before, my job's to play football, so I'm going to do
everything I can to get back on the field as soon as possible.''
While he isn't sure when he will be cleared for full contact or if he
will even make it back by the season opener on Sept. 9, Mankins is
looking forward to playing alongside Nate Solder, the second-year left
tackle who had a trying preseason opener.
Tasked with one of the most pressing jobs on the offensive line -
protecting Brady's blind side in the wake of Light's departure - Solder
allowed Saints defensive end Will Smith to beat him around the end
before strip-sacking Brady early in the game.
Mankins is confident Solder will improve.
''Nate's one of those guys that's going to do everything in his power
to get better and to work hard,'' he said. ''He's always studying,
always lifting, always running. If you've seen him, he's in phenomenal
shape and he's a great athlete and he's got the mindset to work hard.''
That's exactly what Mankins was forced to do during the offseason.
He called the rehabilitation process tedious, saying it took
''forever'' just to be able to flex his leg again.
''You just keep working at it, and hopefully you get it strong enough
in time,'' he said. ''We were kind of working on a short schedule here,
so we were pushing it pretty good.''
Watching from the sidelines, however, didn't sit well with Mankins.
He had never sustained a serious injury, so missing the first couple of
weeks of training camp did not sit well.
Not to mention he had to take a little grief for it, too, considering
he dished it out to his teammates in the past.
''I was always one of the guys that made fun of the guys that was hurt.
Now, I got put in that position,'' Mankins said. ''I always felt like
we were here to do a job so you should be out there practicing and
playing. The first few weeks of camp was tough not to be out there, but
it was something that had to be done.
''It's good to be back out and just trying to get better as fast as
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