A surprise return
Gritty Mankins back at practice
FOXBOROUGH – When the Patriots gathered on the practice field Sunday after two days of physical rest, there was a surprise participant: Logan Mankins.
The All-Pro left guard was removed from the physically unable to perform list and took part in the session, though only in the individual drills. When full-team work began, he was an observer.
Though he’s just working back into things, Mankins once again showed his grit. It was six months ago that he underwent surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament following the Super Bowl, and he revealed Sunday that the injury may have occurred during the season.
Mankins suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament on his left knee in the Week 16 win over Miami last year, when he was asked to play left tackle for the first time in his career, replacing Matt Light. That MCL injury forced Mankins to miss the regular-season finale, the first time in his career he’d missed a game to injury.
When news came that Mankins had undergone ACL surgery in February, it was reportedly on that same knee.
But Mankins had the surgery on the right knee, and was cryptic about when the injury might have happened — in large part because he doesn’t seem to know, and simply played through the pain. He only said “possibly” when asked if the injury occurred during the regular season.
“I could still run, so there was no reason to sit out,” he said about the prospect of sitting down at any point. “There were no MRIs or anything, so we never knew exactly what was hurt. If you could still run and play, there’s no reason to see a doctor, right?”
Saying his pain threshold is “pretty good” — which in this case seems to be an understatement — Mankins explained his ability to play through the injury thusly: “I don’t know. Put a brace on, tape an aspirin to it and go.”
He essentially said the pain wasn’t bad enough for him to seek an MRI, and that pain is just part of football.
Mankins did admit, however, that the Super Bowl was tough for him.
“I was banged up a little, but everyone was at that point of the year,” he said. “Everyone knew something wasn’t quite right, so that’s why we had the MRI after the game to see what was wrong.”
Again, despite being far less than 100 percent, the 2004 first-round pick had no thought of sitting.
“If I can run, I’m not going to sit out any game. I’m here to play football, not to watch and collect a check,” he said.
Mankins said he found out Sunday that the team medical staff was allowing him to practice. As a member of the PUP list, he had been doing some running and agility drills with members of the training staff.
“He’s worked hard,” coach Bill Belichick said. “Nobody has worked harder than Logan. 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. He’s worked as hard as anybody can.”
Mankins’s toughness was already legendary, but perhaps he’s even added to the legend after having played on two bad knees — the sprained MCL and the torn ACL — throughout the playoffs.
“Seeing a guy like him — he’s been to the Pro Bowl multiple times and a great leader on our team, and tough guy — it’s great to see him out here, especially what he’s had to overcome this offseason,” said Wes Welker, who also suffered a torn ACL — in 2009. “I definitely have an appreciation for what he’s had to go through this offseason.
“Logan’s about as tough as they come, so for him to be out there on the field, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
What isn’t surprising is that Mankins acknowledged making fun of other injured players in the past, and that he has no intention of stopping now, despite his own experience.
“It’s tedious,” he said of the rehab process. “It takes forever to even be able to flex your leg and then you go on from there and you just keep working at it and hopefully you get it strong enough in time. We were kind of working on a short schedule here, so we were pushing it pretty good.”