Mankins, offensive line cramming for Titans

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Mankins, offensive line cramming for Titans

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.

Thomas says he's 'not even worried about' bad blood with Schroder

Thomas says he's 'not even worried about' bad blood with Schroder

BOSTON -- No matter what Isaiah Thomas and Dennis Schroder say, you get the feeling there’s still some bad blood between these two.
 
It goes back to the playoffs last season when Thomas slapped Schroder in the face and extended into their last meeting in which Schroder said Thomas spoke unkind words about his family in Atlanta (allegations that Thomas has repeatedly denied).
 
Following Atlanta’s shoot-around this morning, Schroder doubled down on his previous comments about Thomas having said things about his family.
 
“Everybody heard it, too,” Schroder said earlier today. “My family sat courtside too. Thabu (Sefolosha) heard some things; he was involved in that. It is what it is. We just try to compete and it’s getting heated in the game. It is what it is.”
 
I asked Thomas about the Schroder allegations following Boston’s 104-98 win at Detroit on Sunday night.
 
“Man, I’m past that. I’m not worried about that guy,” Thomas said. “Once he did that the last game, where he tried to damage my character, (saying I was) talking about his parents … I’m past that. Hopefully we can beat the Atlanta Hawks. I’m not even worried about him.”
 
Schroder speaks a similar tone about his approach to tonight’s game.
 
Boston (38-21) is looking to build off the win at Detroit which snapped a two-game losing streak.
 
Meanwhile, the Hawks (32-26) have lost three straight -- each defeat by at least 15 points -- and four of their last five.
 
In the last two losses, Schroder was suspended for one game because he missed practice following the All-Star break (he told the Hawks there was a visa mix-up) and was late arriving to the team bus for another so he began that game on the bench.
 
That’s why the beef that still exist between both players isn’t likely to be a major deal tonight; at least that’s what they want us to believe.
 
“We gotta win,” Schroder said. “We lost two in a row after All-Star break. I think the team is more important than a player on the other team. We just focus on winning this game and try to compete for 48 minutes.”
 
Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer will be the first to tell you that Schroder’s competitive drive is among the reasons the franchise hasn’t looked back on its decision to trade all-star Jeff Teague and give Schroder the keys to running the team.
 
He has certainly had his moments when that decision might be questioned, but for the most part he has shown the kind of growth individually that they were hoping for as a full-time starter.
 
This season he’s averaging career highs in scoring (17.4) and assists (6.3) per game.
 
However, Atlanta hasn’t enjoyed the same level of success this year that we’ve seen from them recently.
 
A fixture among the top two or three teams the past couple of years, they are currently fifth in the NBA, trailing East-leading Cleveland by 8.5 games and the No. 2 Celtics by 5.5 games.
 
And while Boston does have a nice cushion with 24 games left to play, they know a strong finish will position them to better control their postseason destiny -- something that hasn’t been the case the past couple of seasons in which Boston began the playoffs on the road as a lower seed.
 
As much as the need to win will be front and center tonight, all eyes will be on the two point guards.
 
But in the end, both understand that tonight’s game isn’t about which of them can out-perform the other.
 
“Dennis is a competitive guy, as is Isaiah,” Budenholzer said. “They both are more concerned about their teams and what’s best for their teams.”

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

Cardinals pull away late for 7-2 victory over Red Sox

The Cardinals broke open a close game with four runs in the last two innings against Red Sox relief prospect Chandler Shepherd and went on to a 7-2 exhibition victory over Boston yesterday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.

Red Sox-Cardinals box score

The loss dropped the Sox to 1-3 for the exhibition season.

Boston had jumped on top, 1-0, on an RBI single by Mitch Moreland in the bottom of the first, but St. Louis countered with two runs in the second and one in the third, all against starter Brian Johnson. It remained 3-1 until the Cards touched Shepherd for two runs in the eighth and two in the ninth. The Red Sox added their final run in the bottom of the ninth when catcher Jordan Procyshen, who spent last season at Single-A Salem, hit a sacrifice fly.

Moreland, Xander Bogaerts and Chris Young each had two hits for the Red Sox. who also got scoreless relief from Teddy Stankiewicz, Noe Ramirez, Robby Scott, Kyle Martin and Brandon Workman. It was Bogaerts' last game before leaving to compete for The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

The Sox host the Yankees on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m.