FOXBOROUGH - When he's healthy, Logan Mankins is the Patriots' best offensive lineman and one of the best guards in the NFL. So opposing defensive linemen take note: right now, Mankins is doing well physically.
"I feel good. I feel really good so far, so hopefully that continues," Mankins said Sunday. "Way better than last year. Last year I was still running on one leg, so this year it’s nice to be healthy."
Mankins played Super Bowl XLVI on two bad knees, and underwent reconstructive surgery for a torn ACL not long after the game, so he was technically still rehabbing when camp began last year.
A team captain now in his ninth season, Mankins prefers practicing in full pads, particularly when it comes to heading up against his defensive line teammates.
"(I'm) pretty tired right now, but always nice to start playing real football, see where you’re at and where you need to go," he said. "It’s pretty hard to stop power rushers and stuff in just T-shirts and helmets, so the pads, it makes it a little more equal. We actually have something to hit now and grab on to at times so it makes it a lot better for us."
With pads came one-on-ones for the offensive and defensive linemen, and for Mankins that means a fresh round of battles with Vince Wilfork; they opposed one another three times on Sunday.
Mankins has a great deal of respect for Wilfork.
"It makes you a ton better – to win against Vince you have to do everything right in one-on-ones, because he’s all go, straightforward, and he’s a big, strong man," he said. "If you don’t do it right he’s going to push you back, or if you don’t get your hands in the right spot it’s over for you. Makes you really focus on your technique."
Mankins also spoke highly of new defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, signed as a free agent after spending the first eight seasons of his career in Oakland.
"He’s been impressive so far. I like his work ethic so far, he’s been working really hard and giving great effort, and if he gives us that kind of effort all season he’ll have a good season I think," Mankins said. "He's very athletic for his size, he can move good, he’s quick for an inside guy that big."