FOXBORO -- Toughness is what grows on on the side of the Sierra Nevadas. It can be found among the cattle and the horses and within the men who chop wood and build fences nearby. It is going work. Everyday. No matter what.
For Logan Mankins, that's toughness.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said last week of his All-Pro offensive lineman that he has never coached anyone tougher. This after Mankins injured his ankle in Week 17 against the Bills, had to be helped off the field, but returned to action after missing just one Patriots offensive series.
"I’ve coached a lot of tough guys," Belichick said. "I don’t think there’s any that I would put ahead of him. Maybe some on that level but none ahead. Anytime Logan needs help getting off the field, you feel like it’s something serious. Usually he ends up just staying out there but for him to need assistance getting off the field was definitely a concerning moment. Then when [head athletic trainer] Jim Whelan came back and told me, as you mentioned, after the next series that Logan was back, I was a little bit surprised to hear that. He’s a tough individual, tough-minded, physically and mentally tough."
Informed of his coach's compliment on Thursday, Mankins smiled through his thick, scraggly beard.
"I don't know I must have him fooled," he said. "I learned that kind of stuff from my dad and the guys he worked with. They're all tough guys and they all took pride in never missing days of work and always being there no matter what the circumstances were. There are lots of stories that I could tell you but I probably shouldn't so I'm not going to get into them."
Tim Mankins is a rancher who works with cattle in Catheys Valley, Calif. where Logan grew up. According to this story in his hometown's local paper, the Merced Sun Star, Mankins still helps his dad work on the ranch when he returns home.
It's something he's done all his life.
"Growing up on a ranch, you don't have much of a choice if you want to work or not," he said. "There's many days where you're pulled away from school to go work so we learned that young."
On the ranch is where Mankins first learned to take a hit and keep going. He said he's never been as injured herding cattle as he's been playing football -- for example, he played all of the 2011 season with a torn ACL -- but he took his lumps from the animals with which he worked.
"Kicked, ran over, all kinds of stuff," he said.
Mankins missed practice all last week during New England's first-round bye with the ankle injury he suffered against the Bills, but he has been out on the field in a limited capacity for all three Patriots practices this week.
"I'm getting ready for this week," Mankins said, wearing a pair of slippers at the podium in the Patriots media room. "Been limited at practice, but it's going good. It's improved everyday. We'll see what happens by Saturday."
Saturday's a work day for the Patriots, which means that if it's at all possible, Mankins will be out there. He learned early on that there isn't any other way.
"That's our job," Mankins said. "Our No. 1 thing here is, 'Do your job,' and you can't do your job unless you're on the field."