By Tom E. Curran
FOXBORO - Ready for the Titans?
Logan Mankins wasn't ready to say that. But the Patriots Pro Bowl guard, who's appearance at practice Sunday night was a big hurdle in his return from ACL surgery, does appear to be ahead of schedule for the season opener in Tennessee.
Mankins had his surgery soon after the season ended. Sunday was his first practice action - albeit in shirts and shells - since the Super Bowl.
Mankins said he "knew something was wrong with (the right knee)" by the end of the season but said the extent of the damage "was a little surprising."
Mankins said, "I'm not gonna get into when it happened. It happened a long time ago. A lot longer than you would have thought it happened."
Makings also says he injured his left knee while playing left tackle for a short time last season.
That Mankins played with a tear in his ACL appeared to leave some media members aghast.
They weren't around when former Patriots corner Jimmy Hitchcock played for the team without ACLs. At all. So it's not routine but it's not entirely unheard of either. Especially in a non-skill position like offensive line that doesn't require sharp cutting.
"I could still run...," Mankins answered when asked why he continued to play with hurt knees.
Being on the exercise bike instead of the practice field was a weird switch, Mankins said.
"I've never been hurt really, so not being out at practice wasn't something I enjoyed very much," he admitted. "In years past I was always one of the guys that made fun of the guys that got hurt, now I got hurt. I always felt like we were here to do a job and you should be practicing and playing. But the first couple of weeks being hurt it was tough not to be out there.
Asked if he'll be ready for the opener, Mankins said, "I'd like to think I would be able to but I don't know.
"It's been a weird camp," Mankins allowed. "A lot of guys coming in for one day (on the offensive line) then they're getting hurt, it's been a lot of shuffling parts in there. I think there were a few practices we only had eight or nine guys, that's tough not having enough for two lines."
With Mankins edging closer to his return, the next prodigal guard may be Brian Waters. Asked when he expects Waters - who is on an excused absence - to come back, Mankins answered, "You know as much as I do. I don't know when he's coming. Or if he is. Or what's going on. That might be between him and Bill (Belichick)."