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Patriots Notebook

Johnson a fan of Haynesworth

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / August 15, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - Patriots fans who have lined the bleachers and hillside behind Gillette Stadium the last week or so haven’t seen Albert Haynesworth at training camp.

But defensive line coach Pepper Johnson sees Haynesworth every day, and yesterday raved about the veteran with the checkered past, who was acquired July 29 from Washington.

“He’s very unlike what a lot of you read about. I was thinking, ‘What am I really going to have to deal with?’ But, hey, I’m coaching whatever player that comes in here, it doesn’t matter to me,’’ Johnson said. “Albert is a great guy. It’s kind of hard to see some of the things that you hear that are negative about him coming from that person. You need to know both sides of the story.

“He’s been trying to work his way out on the field, and he’s been tremendous in the classroom [to] date. I’m expecting a lot from him.’’

When the Patriots completed the trade for Haynesworth, Johnson heard rumors Haynesworth would be hard to deal with.

“I’m not a person who sits up and judges,’’ Johnson said. “The Albert Haynesworth that came through the door and shook my hand and started talking to me, that’s the person I’m dealing with. His past is his past.’’

Haynesworth’s sexual assault trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 23 in Washington D.C.

Mankins thankful Guard Logan Mankins, whom the Patriots made the highest-paid player at his position, thanked the Kraft family and coach Bill Belichick yesterday.

“I’m happy with [the contract]. I’m ecstatic,’’ Mankins said. “This doesn’t feel real yet, so I don’t know how to take it yet, but I’m very happy to be here. Looking forward, I’m hoping to have a good season and hopefully I can help this team win games for the next six years, if I make it that long.’’

Mankins said he told his wife, Kara, he had to earn his money - he doesn’t want to be a guy who shows up only to collect his check or is hurt every year.

“It still hasn’t sunk in yet. That’s what guys always hope [for] - to get to this point, and I think when you get there it takes a little while to set in, so I’m still at a little bit of a loss for words about it,’’ Mankins said. “But I’m sure eventually I’ll have something better for you guys.’’

Mankins’s alma mater, Fresno State, recently completed installation of a $1.2 million FieldTurf surface at its stadium, and one sideline bears the words “Mankins Family’’ in honor of their donation.

It’s not known how much Mankins donated - he said he wanted to help out and show appreciation for the school.

Connolly practices Right guard Dan Connolly returned to practice for the first time since injuring his right elbow in practice last Monday. He wore a sizable black brace.

“It’s a little restrictive but it’s what I need to do to protect myself and get better, and get the full strength so that I can perform how I need to,’’ he said.

Connolly’s reps appeared to decrease in one-on-ones against the defensive linemen. Like several others, he had a hard time handling nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who has yet to be defeated.

Connolly said there isn’t much risk of the injury getting worse.

“I’ve still got some rehab to do, but I’m practicing and getting ready to play in the games,’’ he said. “Just working to get better.’’

New addition Danny Woodhead returned to the practice field one day after he and wife Stacia welcomed their first child, daughter Gia . . . Including the five players remaining on the physically unable to perform/non-football injury lists, there were 21 players who did not practice: Haynesworth, Mike Wright, Taylor Price, Brandon Spikes, Ron Brace, Eric Kettani, Malcolm Williams, Jeff Tarpinian, Christian Cox, Ryan Wendell, and Zach Roth; shorts-wearing spectators were Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, Ras-I Dowling, Kevin Faulk, Shane Vereen, James Sanders, Josh Barrett, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Deaderick, and Shaun Ellis . . . The Patriots will host free agent T.J. Houshmandzadeh today. The 33-year-old receiver played his first eight years (2001-08) with Chad Ochocinco in Cincinnati . . . The Patriots signed linebacker/special teamer Niko Koutouvides, a seven-year veteran who grew up in Plainville, Conn., and played the past two seasons with the Buccaneers . . . The Patriots practice today at 1:30, and it’s open to the public.

Greg A. Bedard of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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