FOXBORO -- By the end of each season, Logan Mankins moves as if he’s been in a car wreck. Or several car wrecks.
The injuries we know he’s played through -- ankle and calf last year, hip in 2012, a torn ACL in 2011 -- are significantly outnumbered by the little nicks and hurts that are a fact of life for an NFL interior lineman. Mankins is 32, young for the planet, old for the game.
How much longer?
“I don’t know, that’s a good question,” he acknowledged Wednesday morning as veterans reported for the start of 2014 training camp. “Depends on my health, I think, and if they want to keep me around still. We’ll see.”
Less than his best, Mankins is still one of the toughest guards in the league. The respect the team has for him -- coaching staff and players on both sides of the ball -- is almost unmatched. Hence, he could probably play as long as he likes. Certainly through the end of his current contract, which expires after 2016.
But Mankins could be a player who pulls the plug himself before anyone makes a move for the cord.
“I just want to play until I think I don’t feel good and I can still do it,” he stated when asked if he spends time each year weighing his future. “If I can’t do it, I don’t think I’ll keep going. Once I don’t feel I’m playing the way I want to.”
This is a transitional season for the offensive line. Longtime line coach Dante Scarnecchia retired. Several rookies have been brought in to compete.
Mankins said the process of winning his spot begins anew every camp.
“We do have a lot of veterans returning,” he noted. “We have some new young guys that are fitting in nicely so far. It’s always good to know the guys you’re with that you can trust them. This is the time of year you’ve got to go out and prove it, you’ve got to earn your job. That’s what training camp’s for.”
A necessary evil?
“At this point you’d just rather get to the games but I understand what training camp’s for,” he said. “It’s needed, it’s necessary, it’s just one of those things you’ve got to put yourself through and it makes you better. Gets you in good shape.”
It also teaches you about your teammates, said Mankins.
“You learn from the new guys what they are willing to put themselves through. How good of shape they’re in. When we’re doing drills that are really tough and you’re already tired, you see what they got. It’s always a fun time but it’s a hard time.”