FOXBORO -- With about 72 hours left before the Patriots' season-opener with the Titans, Logan Mankins knew that he and his fellow offensive linemen had a lot of work to do. It was time to cram.
After a preseason rife with injury and inconsistent personnel groupings, Tom Brady's personal protectors had just three days to round into regular-season form -- a difficult task to be sure.
Mankins missed a chunk of training camp as he recovered from knee surgery. Sebastian Vollmer nursed his ailing back for much of the preseason. Brian Waters, who had a Pro Bowl season last season, still hasn't reported. And second-year linemen Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon struggled very publicly during New England's first two exhibition games.
"It's coming together," Mankins said. "We've had a couple guys miss a lot of time so we're still working on it. We've got a lot of work to do between here and Sunday. Hopefully we can put our best on the field Sunday, play good together, trust in each other. We're going against a good defense. They're very athletic, very fast and they play hard so it's gonna be a big challenge."
For Mankins, Sunday could be particularly trying simply because he hasn't played much full-contact football since his return. He played sparingly against Tampa Bay in New England's third preseason game, and he didn't play at all against the Giants in their fourth and final exhibition. He's barely six months removed from surgery to repair a torn ACL, and even he's not 100 percent sure how he'll be feeling if asked to play four quarters in Tennessee.
"It's always tough," he said. "It goes for everyone in the league. Not everyone plays a full game in the preseason. It's different for everyone. Myself not having too many reps, I just gotta trust in my conditioning and hopefully it's good enough."
The guys on either side of Mankins -- Solder at left tackle and, presumably, Ryan Wendell at center -- are surely hoping the same. Mankins said that as long as the three of them are on the same page, they should avoid any major gaffes.
"It's just the three of us seeing through the same set of eyes on that side," he said. "There should only be one call and that's the right call. If we start making too many calls then guys are saying things we don't need out there, that gets guys confused. We gotta be on the same page and trust that call and everyone do what it says."
Seventy-two hours and counting for them to get it all straightened out.