FOXBORO -- Logan Mankins has pretty basic training camp goals. With eight NFL seasons and five Pro Bowls (four consecutive) on his resume, the Patriots guard has earned such simplicity.
"It always starts with conditioning," he explained Sunday. "The first day of pads is always a hard one. It's a lot harder with all the pads on so you're sweating more, you get tired faster. And it always comes down to technique. Your technique is going to be rusty, and when you get tired your technique gets worse."
Smiling through a sheet of sweat, Mankins is grateful to move from position drills to full-contact 11-on-11. Not only do padded practices help coaches better evaluate the team, but the players can dive deeper into personal assessments, as well.
"It's pretty hard to stop power rushes and stuff in just t-shirts and helmets, so the pads make it a little more equal, when you actually have something to hit now and grab onto at times. That makes it a lot better for us."
New England has seven offensive linemen, from rookies to fifth-year veterans, in camp who are fresh into the system. Though hands are starting to truly get dirty, late July is not the time to hand out final report cards.
Mankins gave only a general impression of the line's new crop of prospects.
"I got to watch them a little," he allowed. "Most of the time I'm dealing with big Vince [Wilfork], so my hands are full. But they looked good, they're moving pretty fast and they're trying hard. A lot of effort. It starts with effort and they're giving that."
That's the thing about practicing against a guy like Wilfork -- he'll teach you all about effort. The 10-year vet is big a defensive tackle as they come at 6-2 and a conservatively listed 325-pounds, but he moves well enough to give offensive linemen hell. During Sunday's 11-on-11, Wilfork stripped the ball from running back Stevan Ridley. It was hard to see if Ridley got stacked up after coming off of Mankins, but the defense clearly won that round.
"To win against Vince, you have to do everything right in 1-on-1's because he's all-go straight forward and he's a big, strong man," the guard said. "If you don't do it right he's just going to push you back, or if you don't get your hands in the right spot it's over for you. It makes you really focus on technique."
The day wasn't completely lost; Mankins did get the better of Wilfork during the 1-on-1 drill. Twice.
"It feels great," he grinned. "I'm pretty tired right now, but it's always nice to start playing real football -- see where you're at and see where you need to go."