Will Pats walk it like they talk it with Mankins?

191543.jpg

Will Pats walk it like they talk it with Mankins?

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO - He's gone from pissed off to Pro Bowler in the span of eight weeks. Logan Mankins, honored Tuesday night with his third Pro Bowl selection, is one of the NFL's most intriguing stories. But because of the tight-lipped nature of the Patriots and the smiling reticence of their left guard to entertain questions, it's hard to pin down the dynamic between the Pats and their best offensive lineman. On Wednesday, Bill Belichick was asked about Mankins' impact since returning to the team inWeek 9, three weeks before he had to in order to be credited with a "season played" in 2010."He's been outstanding, on and off the field," Belichick said. "He brings a great attitude and work ethic, superior toughness to the field and to the football team and that unit. Just an outstanding performer, a smart guy who doesn't make any mistakes, plays hard, runpass, every down, from the snap to the whistle, from the first play to the last play. Very consistent player. Always has been. He's shown that this year; it doesn't matter whether it's a Friday practice or the fourth quarter or the first play of the game, he's very, very consistent. And good. Very good." So how does the loftypraise jibewith the fact Mankins is playing for 866,250 this season, is a likely free agent at the end of the season (CBA uncertainty prevents us from being, well, certain) and is on record as saying he wanted to be traded and hasn't said anything yet to indicate he'll be sticking around. Mankins dryly answered when asked if the uncertainty of his future has him playing harder. "Not really," he said. "I don't know if you ever watched any of our games, but I tend to play hard a majority of the time, so I don't think I'm playing for a contract right now."

Can the Patriots let a player like that storm off? Or merely walk away? Especially when aging but still useful left tackle Matt Light is headed toward free agency as well. Belichick parried by saying, "Right now, it's just about getting ready for Miami. There are a lot of other things we can talk about, but none of them apply at this particular time."The lay of the land, best as we can read it, is that there's a yawning disconnect between the football and business sides of things on Mankins. The Patriots value him. So much that they offered him a five-year deal that would have put him in the top-five highest paid players at his position. And while that may seem a little modest given that Belichick seems to feel he's as good as anybody, you have to remember Mankins was a restricted free agent this past offseason. He was under the Patriots' control but hoping to be paid as if he was on the open market. Now, it seems the tack being taken is to kill Mankins with kindness while driving a wedge between the player and his old-school agent, Frank Bauer.Bauer, in my opinion, screwed this deal up royally. Instead of the 3.2 million tender Mankins could have been playing under, or the 40 million or so multityear deal he could have signed, Mankins is making less than a million and currently unprotected long-term if he were to suffer a catastrophic injury. Proclamations made by Bauer that the Patriots had "totally lost" Mankins seem absurd now. What remains to be seen is whether Mankins is willing to stay, or is just smiling through his situation as he waits to doff his cap to New England, hug his teammates and coaches, whip off the front office, and head to free agency.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Does Garoppolo need to play Thursday? ‘It’s not my call,’ he says

Does Garoppolo need to play Thursday? ‘It’s not my call,’ he says

FOXBORO - Hard to put a shine on the clunker that Jimmy Garoppolo submitted Friday night in Carolina. Another red zone interception dropped, a fumble recovered by a teammate and almost half (four) of his nine completions caught behind the line of scrimmage. 

Not exactly what the Patriots were hoping for in the third, and perhaps, last preseason outing for their Week 1 starter. Which raises the question: does Garoppolo need to play Thursday in the Jersey swamp?

“It’s really not my call,” he said. “You always want to be out there with your guys. It’s just the nature of the beast; you’re a competitor, you want to be out there, but whatever Coach [Bill Belichick] asks me to do, I’ll do.”

Were Belichick to decide to keep Garoppolo on ice, that would mean the third-year pro would go 16 days between his ugly appearance in Carolina and opening night at Arizona. That is less than ideal. In fact, it seems like a bad idea for an unproven player in dire need of as many reps as can be afforded him (which is why playing Tom Brady last week still makes no sense in this man’s opinion).

“We have to take that into consideration, too,” admitted Bill Belichick. “Again, whether that overrides something or it doesn’t, we’ll just have to see, but yeah, it’s definitely a consideration.”

“I really don’t even think about it like that, to be honest,” said Garoppolo. “Whatever they ask me to do, they ask me to do. “

Garoppolo insists he found out he was starting against the Panthers with only slightly more lead time than he was given the week prior against Chicago. So, there’s a good chance if he plays this week that he won’t know until the day of, which is certainly an acquired taste.

“At first it was a weird - I can remember back in my rookie year it was a weird thing not knowing,” he said. “You just get used to it after a while, mixing and matching with all the different guys, knowing guys’ tendencies and how they play, and you just react to it, really.”

If Garoppolo does get that chance, the Pats need him to react more decisively and more confidently than his last time out. In a summer of unknowns, that’s one thing we can be sure of.

 

 

Branch: 'I ain't saying a damn thing' about reason behind suspension

branch.jpg

Branch: 'I ain't saying a damn thing' about reason behind suspension

FOXBORO -- Alan Branch was suspended by the Patriots for about a week, a period spanning from before the team's second preseason game against the Bears to just before its third preseason game against the Panthers. When asked about Branch's time away from the field, Patriots coach Bill Belichick called it "a club matter." 

Branch was back in the Patriots locker room on Monday following his first practice since being reinstated, and he followed his coach's lead when it came to shedding light on the reasoning for his week-long departure.

"If Bill ain't telling ya'll, I ain't saying a damn thing, I guarantee that," Branch said. "If ya'll looking for something from me, it ain't happening. I'm just happy to be out here and get ready to play against the Giants. Glad to be out here with my teammates. We're all grinding for the same goal so that's where we're at right now."

Branch was asked if his team-issued suspension was the source of any embarrassment now that he's back.

"I ain't got nothing to be embarrassed about," he said. "Everything's copacetic. My teammates are good. The coaches are good. There's no reason for me to be embarrassed at all."

Branch did acknowledge, however, that the time he missed could have been better spent. While the Patriots practiced without him, he worked out on his own in order to try to stay in shape. At Monday's practice, he was not part of a group that went down to a separate field to do conditioning following warm-ups -- perhaps an indication that his conditioning was where the team expected it to be upon his return. 

"Everything in life is a learning experience," Branch said of his suspension. "I could definitely say it's a learning experience. Every snap on the field is valuable. Every one I missed out there, you know, other people are getting better while I was, you know, staying stagnant or going down with the personal workouts I was doing. I missed some valuable time out there."

Branch is a a big personality on a team that typically takes a business-like approach to the field. Oftentimes during training camp or pre-game warm-ups, when there is music playing within earshot, Branch is not afraid to break out a dance move or two. He also is one of the few Patriots who chooses not to participate in organized team activities in the spring, opting instead to show up for mandatory minicamp before returning home until having to report for training camp. 

Might his seemingly care-free style wear on teammates or coaches, he was asked?

"You gotta ask them, man," he answered. "I'm out here to have fun. I don't want to play football and be mad. If someone else has an issue, you gotta ask them. It ain't my problem."

Signed as a free agent after he was released by the Bills in 2014, Branch has made an impact as a consistent contrbutor on the interior of New England's defensive line. He made 17 starts for the Patriots last season, including both playoff contests, often lining up next to former first-round pick Malcom Brown. 

A second-round selection out of Michigan back in 2007, Branch has had a long and productive career, providing teams with an impossible-to-teach 6-foot-6, 350-pound frame. With the Patriots, though, he's had a bit of a revival as 2015 was his second-highest season-long grade he's ever received from Pro Football Focus, behind only the season he had in 2011 as a member of the Seahawks.

"I love it here," he said. "Love the guys in the lcoker room. Love everything. The atmosphere, the winning attitude. Everything about being here is awesome so I love this place."

The fourth preseason game is traditionally a game that's used by teams to get a look at players vying for final roster spots. Branch seems to be a safe bet to make the roster based on his skill set and experience, but he said he's hoping to play against the Giants on Thursday after having missed each of the last two preseason games.

"Definitely. Like I said before, every snap on the field is valuable experience and time missed if you don't get it," he said. "Every rep I get out there, I'm going to use my full ability to make sure I get everything I can out of it."

Belichick taking wait-and-see approach with Stork's status

stork.jpg

Belichick taking wait-and-see approach with Stork's status

FOXBORO -- Bryan Stork has had a whirlwind few days. 

On Wednesday, news broke that Stork had been informed of his release. Then before that move became official, the Patriots and Redskins worked out a trade to send the third-year center to Washington. After that, indications were that Stork was retiring, and the Redskins were unsure as to whether or not he would even report. 

Stork eventually made up his mind, tweeted that he was ready to start a new chapter in his career -- a tweet he has since deleted -- and made his way to the Redskins.

The latest update on Stork's saga is that he failed his physical and that his right have reverted back to the Patriots. When asked about the situation, Bill Belichick chose to wait on illuminating the media of his plans since the picture was still a bit hazy.

"I don’t know if that’s official," Belichick said of Stork's rights. "That sounds like the way it is going to go."

Asked if the Patriots would be releasing Stork, as they originally intended, Belichick replied, "Well, we’ll find out exactly what the story is and whenever that is we’ll make the best decision that we can."

Stay tuned.