By Tom E. Curran
On an Indianapolis sidewalk last week, the agent for Logan Mankins said he's never seen a head coach work harder to get a deal done than Bill Belichick has workedon Mankins. So if the head coach and de facto GM is working hard and wants it done, what's the holdup? Has to be somewhere else in the building, right?Frank Bauer, Mankins' agent,hasn't expertly managedhis client's effort to get a new contract, but the landscape in New England right now is a little bit confusing. On one hand, you have Belichick, Tom Brady and most every other person who doesn't wear a suit to the office squarely in support of the decorated left guard. Work ethic, commitment, skill, effort, importance to the team - all are buzzwords we've been hearing since last offseason. On the other hand,there's ownerRobert Kraft. He'ssaying all the right things publicly but the number of times Kraft has felt compelled to either address or inject himself into the public discussion of Mankins indicates a negotiation that's unique during the Belichick Era. Business and football are at loggerheads. Kraft seemed to deny involvement in negotiations on WEEI back in September when he said ownership will "bless" contracts but not embroil itself. If that's the case, this negotiation's been damned. Mankins threw the first public punch, that's for sure. He told Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com back in June that ownership was unwilling to do an extension because of CBA uncertainty. He questioned Kraft's principles. A month later, vice chairman Jonathan Kraft told me Mankins "seriously misspoke" when challenging Kraft. In September, it was reported that a deal was close with Mankins until Robert Kraft requested a public apology from the player and that Mankins refused. Kraft took to EEI to deny. He didn't deny asking for the apology, only thata deal was close. "I also said, Logan, it would be nice if that (apology) was made public because Im hoping we do a deal with you and I dont want people to think that the way you do a deal is to say something that is not true or involve ownership," Kraft told 'EEIWhen Mankins reported, Kraft took a little victory lap saying, "Im happy hes with the team," adding, You can't always believe everything you read in the media."At the Super Bowl, Kraft again alleged the media was confusing matters when he said, "Logan Mankins is one of the best players on the team," Kraft said. "I think there has been a little misunderstanding about some things that have been written."When pressed about what was misunderstood, Kraft ignored the question. These oblique references to media misinformation are a little maddening since the Patriots control their ownflow of information. Something's messed up? Well, what is it? Because the guy who's laying it out there most regularly is Frank Bauer. And he paints a picture of a football team and a football coach that wants a certain bearded football player in the fold long term. But he says the business operation is bent on making Mankins grovel. We can debate the seeming propriety of a player turning his nose up to a 10 million franchise tag for a season of play. We can argue whether Mankins deserved to be paid top dollar at his position when he wasn't a free agent based on his talent.All good talk. But what's interesting here is thebehind-the-scenes tug of war (which will inevitably be pooh-poohed) that's exists between football and business.
By Tom E. Curran