Mankins back to work, hoping to go in opener

Mankins back to work, hoping to go in opener

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)."

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

Wednesday's Pats-Bills practice report: Jimmy G., Brissett both 'limited'

FOXBORO -- The highly-anticipated first Patriots injury report of the week was released on Wednesday afternoon, and it was fairly predictable. 

Both injured quarterbacks were active but limited in their practice participation, the report indicated. That comes as little surprise as both Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder) and Jacoby Brissett (thumb) were spotted throwing passes early in Wednesday's practice. Neither appeared to be experiencing any significant discomfort as they made their warm-up throws. 

Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower (knee) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) were also limited. Gronkowski admitted that the team was taking it slow with him in his first game back on the field last week -- he played just 14 snaps in New England's win over Houston -- but he said on Wednesday that he hoped to go "freakin' crazy" on the field soon.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
QB Jacoby Brissett (right thumb)
OT Marcus Cannon (calf)
G Jonathan Cooper (foot)
LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder)
TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring)
LB Dont'a Hightower (knee)
CB Eric Rowe (ankle)

BUFFALO BILLS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
TE Charles Clay (knee)
OL Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle)
OL Patrick Lewis (knee)
WR Sammy Watkins (foot)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
DB Colt Anderson (foot)
DB Ronald Darby (hamstring)
QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder)
DB Jonathan Meeks (foot)
WR Greg Salas (groin)
DB Aaron Williams (ankle)
OL Cordy Glenn (ankle)

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

Garoppolo: Not pressured by Patriots to return last Thursday

FOXBORO -- Jimmy Garoppolo spoke Wednesday for the first time since getting his shoulder separated by the Dolphins’ Kiko Alonso. Standing by his locker, Garoppolo was predictably vague about the status of his arm, unless you consider, “Getting better day by day,” as being insightful. 

The only two responses offered that were worth a damn came when asked if he could have done anything different when he got squished by Alonso while retreating and buying time.  

“Just have to be smart I guess,” said Garoppolo. “I mean, it’s football and stuff’s gonna happen like that, but have to be smart in those situations.”

Asked if he regretted holding the ball as long as he did on a third-down play with the Patriots up 21-0, Garoppolo replied, “After it’s all said and done it’s easy to say that, but it’s one of those things, you’re in the heat of the game. But bottom line I have to be smarter than that.”

Agreed.  

Meanwhile, as he worked last week to get back for Thursday night’s game against Houston, The Boston Herald reported that the Patriots were “putting pressure” on Garoppolo to be ready for the game. Working hard to get key players ready for upcoming games is standard operating procedure for a medical staff. Trying to force a player to perform is not. 

I asked Garoppolo if he felt unduly pressured. He replied, “No.”