By Tom E. Curran
NORTON - The NFL lockout may be testing the self-reliance of many players, but not Logan Mankins. The Patriots' All-Pro guard was down a similar road last year, staying away from the team until November in a contract squabble. When he returned, he walked onto the field and was his usual dominant self. Monday, at the Third Annual Joe Andruzzi and Friends Golf Tournament at TPC Boston, Mankins reflected on the similarities. "This offseason is a little different than the others but like you said, I went through this last year so it's sorta the same thing," Mankins agreed. "It's gonna test guys to see if they have the want-to to do it on their own. Some guys need babysitters so they hire someone to train them. For me, I'm still doing everything on my own. I have a couple of guys that are doing stuff with me and we're trying to get ready."The Patriots put the franchise tag on Mankins before the lockout began. The NFLPA (since disbanded) protested teams' ability to franchise a player into a league year that doesn't exist because the CBA expired. But the use and legality of the franchise tag has been a peripheral issue during the legal wrangling between players and owners. It's widely assumed the franchise tag will still be in play when the CBA gets worked out. And Mankins will be in line to make more than 10 million for 2011. I asked him if he would sign the franchise tender. "I don't know," Mankins replied."We have a lot of time. We don't even know if we'll have a season at this point. I'm hoping they get this resolved before the season so we can play football in time."If Mankins really is hopeful the CBA gets done so he "can play football in time" that'sa prettygood indicator he's likely to sign the tender and play. What about long term, though?Around this time last year, Mankins was indicating that he'd never re-sign with New England after, he alleged, they reneged on doing a long-term deal with him. It sounds like the door is open. "I think about it every now and then but I'm not putting any answers out there yet," Mankins answered. "We'll see when we get down that road."While it isn't a full-on guarantee that he'll talk contract, it is a major modification of his stance last year when it seemed beyond consideration.