Mankins: Incoming rookies will be 'way behind'


Mankins: Incoming rookies will be 'way behind'

By Tom E. Curran

Logan Mankins didn't mince words when asked how hard it will be for the 2011 rookie class to make up lost time if and when the lockout ends. "They're gonna be way behind," Mankins said Monday at the Third Annual Joe Andruzzi and Friends Golf Tournament at TPC Boston. "I remember when I was a rookie, I started DayOne and I still felt likeI didn't know everything. And I was there the whole offseason, the whole training camp, everything. They're gonna be way behind. I guess you'll see the guys who can pick it up really fast."With the lockout almost 70 days old, the toll is worth detailing. Rookie mini camps, passing camps,OTAs andwork with position coaches have already gone by the wayside.And thefact that the only rookies who theoretically could have playbooks are the ones who were drafted in the first round before the lockout was put back in place prior to the second and third round. And all the undrafted free agents - and unrestricted free agents - who would need to learn a new system and the simple logistics of getting around their new city can't do so yet. The Patriots gave their first-round pick, left tackle Nate Solder, Mankins' phone number when the lockout was briefly lifted. Mankins says he's spoken to Solder about dealing with the lockout and uncertainty.
"I'm more than willing to help any young guy," Mankins said. "He's in a tough situation. He doesn't know what's going on right now. He has no coaches to talk to. He's just trying to make it in this league and I'll help him any wayI can." We're probably already at the point where the 2011 season is being affected by the lack of an organized offseason. "The quality of play will be there but it may not start right away," said Andruzzi, the former Patriots' lineman who has dedicated himself to helping fight cancer with his foundation. "How many guys do you see miss training camp and then they get out there and aren't ready or pull something or something like that? You see it year in and year out with different players. "The (offseason work as a rookie with the Packers) was huge," said Andruzzi. "There were two rookie linemen - a first-round pick and I was the other one as a free agent. So I had to work hard. I was in that classroom, studying the playbook, studying film, in the weight room, trying to get that extra edge to get on the field. They're missing learning the playbook, learning the system, and ultimately learning the team."And, as Mankins points out,it's very hard to push yourself to the level necessary without someone prodding you. "There's nothing like having coaches there to push you," he explained. "That will be the hardest part for the guys this year:pushing themselves to the level a coach would push you. You either have it or you don't. You either want to push yourself to get better or you feel you're that good that you don't have to push yourself." Tom E. Curran can be reached at Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran.

Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'


Hightower on Collins: 'He makes it a lot easier for me'

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower is coming off of one of the best games of his career, and he did it while running the Patriots defensive huddle without the help of his on-the-field partner at the linebacker level.

"It’s a lot more fluent having Jamie [Collins] out there," Hightower said on Wednesday. "A lot of the times we coordinate things a lot together. I usually take care of the front, he takes care of the secondary. We have our own way of doing things. Sometimes Jamie is just like, ‘No, you go ahead and you just make the calls and I’ll play off of you.’

"It helps having him out there. I mean, he does everything so he makes it a lot easier for me. Anytime I can have him out there with me, I’m 100 percent having him out there."

Hightower has plenty of experience playing without Collins, however, and Collins is accustomed to having to go without Hightower. Both had issues staying on the field in 2015, and although it's early, that trend has continued this season.

Hightower missed Weeks 2 and 3 due to a knee injury, and Collins missed Week 6 with a hip issue, meaning the duo has been available to coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia only three times this year. 

Last season the pair was active for 10 of 18 games, including both playoff games, and during a Week 5 win over the Cowboys, Hightower played just nine snaps. Collins dealt with an illness that kept him out for four games last season, and Hightower, as has been the case for much of his career, was limited by (and often played through) myriad ailments.

Both are vital to the long-term success of the Patriots defense in 2016, but it's been hit-or-miss as to when they'll be out there to play off of one another as Hightower described.

"Our linebackers, Jamie, Dont'a, they're two of the best in the league," said safety Duron Harmon following Hightower's dominating performance against the Bengals in Week 6. "Any time we can have those guys out there, they just continue to create havoc.

"They make plays, they make it easier for us, especially me. The quarterback can't look off as long when Dont'a's all in his face -- him and Jamie. Having him on the field is a plus. And when you get both of them on the field it's a double-plus."

And therein lies the issue: Having both Hightower and Collins out there together has felt like a luxury rather than the norm. 

At some point, the Patriots will have to make decisions as to what they'll do at the linebacker level for the foreseeable future. Both Hightower and Collins are slated to hit free-agency, and their durability will certainly factor into the equation when the Patriots make them offers to stick in New England.

Until then, though, both will work to be available as often as possible -- both for their team's sake and their own as they eye new deals -- where they can stress opposing offenses at a degree to which most linebacker combinations around the league can only aspire. 

"With us out there we’re able to do a lot of different things, [we have] a lot of versatility," Hightower said. "So hopefully we can both stay out there."

Hightower was removed from the Patriots injury report last week, meaning he's able to take on a full workload in practice. Collins, meanwhile, continues to be limited in practice, and his availability for Sunday's game with the Steelers is not yet known. In place of Collins, sixth-round rookie Elandon Roberts earned the bulk of the playing time against the Bengals last week. Linebacker Barkevious Mingo saw a season-high eight defensive snaps in the win. 

Thursday's Patriots-Steelers practice report: Garoppolo off the list


Thursday's Patriots-Steelers practice report: Garoppolo off the list

FOXBORO -- The Patriots injury report shrunk again on Thursday. 

One day after Rob Gronkowski was removed from the injury report, the Patriots were able to take backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo off. 

Garoppolo injured his shoulder in a Week 2 win over the Dolphins and then missed the following two games, giving way to rookie third-rounder Jacoby Brissett. He has been limited in practice ever since being driven into the ground by Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Here is Thursday's full practice participation/injury report for the Patriots and Steelers:


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Jamie Collins (hip)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder)
LB Shea McClellin (concussion)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
DL Vincent Valentine (back)


T Marcus Gilbert (ankle)
DE Cameron Heyward (hamstring)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (left knee)
S Shamarko Thomas (groin)
C Cody Wallace (knee)
WR Markus Wheaton (shoulder)
RB DeAngelo Williams (knee)

S Robert Golden (foot)
S Michael Mitchell (knee)
LB Ryan Shazier (knee)