Will Pats walk it like they talk it with Mankins?

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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

Bennett not practicing, Foster spends some time with receivers

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Bennett not practicing, Foster spends some time with receivers

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett could use a rest, and the Patriots had him sit out for the start of Wednesday's practice.

The 6-foot-7 tight end is dealing with ankle and shoulder issues that have limited him in practice in recent weeks, and he missed an appearance at a preschool on Tuesday with what a representative called an illness. During Sunday's game against the Rams, Bennett's physical ailments clearly limited him as he had difficulty both as a blocker and as a receiver. 

The Patriots also went without safety Jordan Richards, receiver Danny Amendola and special teams captain Matthew Slater at the start of practice. Richards suffered a knee injury against the Jets in Week 12 and missed practice time last week. Amendola endured an ankle injury against the Rams and left the game iin the third quarter. Slater is dealing with a foot injury that has kept him out of the last two games. 

Patriots corner Eric Rowe was present for the start of Wednesday's practice, but he was not spotted with other corners after a couple of drills. Rowe injured his hamstring late in the third quarter against the Rams and did not return. 

Patriots running back DJ Foster was spotted with receivers near the end of the team's media-availability period Wednesday after working out with running backs to start the session. Foster played receiver for a year in college after beginning his collegiate career as a running back. If the Patriots want depth at wideout with Amendola injured, Foster could be an option.

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

Know Thine Enemy: A complete breakdown of the Ravens

After a 3-0 start, the Ravens dropped a 28-27 decision to the Raiders in Baltimore. That started a four-game skid for Baltimore which included back-to-back losses at the Jets and Giants. But they got back on track against the Steelers and have won four out of five with their only being to the Cowboys. It’s hard to get a clean read on who they really are. 

They had narrow, early-season wins over crap teams like Cleveland and Jacksonville. They had a narrow loss to an outstanding Raiders team and were close with the Cowboys but got run over late with Dallas scoring on its last five possessions. They are coming off their most impressive team win, a 38-6 triumph over the Dolphins. 

This game is a big one in the AFC race not just because it’s a divisional leader but also because it will be a common game between the Patriots and Raiders. The Raiders already beat Baltimore. 

The Pats need to keep pace in a tiebreaker they currently trail. Weird schedule quirk? The Ravens have had only one road game that required a long commute since September. That was the game at Dallas. They just played six of their last nine and four of their last five at home.

LAST 5

Ravens 21, Steelers 14
Ravens 28, Browns 7
At Cowboys 27, Ravens 17
Ravens 19, Bengals 14
Ravens 38, Dolphins 6

OFFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

More than half of Joe Flacco’s 323 completions have gone to three players: tight end Dennis Pitta (61 catches), wide receiver Mike Wallace (57) and wide receiver Steve Smith (54). Those players are 31, 30 and 37 respectively so it’s a veteran group.
Flacco is 114 of 159 (72 percent) with nine touchdowns and three picks in Baltimore’s last four games. He has 15 TDs and 11 picks this season.

The Ravens don’t run it much: 502 pass attempts, 287 rushing attempts. Terrence West and Kenneth Dixon are the lead backs. West has carried more than 15 times in a game on three occasions this season.

Rookie left tackle Ronnie Stanley has been playing very well as has the rest of the Ravens offensive line in recent weeks. Still, Baltimore is just at 34.1 on third down conversions.

DEFENSIVE STATS TO CHEW ON

The Ravens have allowed 207 points this season, tied with the Patriots for lowest in the AFC and just behind Seattle (194) overall.
Baltimore’s allowing just 33.3 percent conversions on third down and only 3.4 yards per carry.

Opposing quarterbacks are completing 64.1 percent of their passes and have 21 touchdown passes and 14 picks against the Ravens defense. Ten of the Ravens 14 picks came against the Browns, Jaguars and in last week’s rout of Miami.
 
WHERE ARE THEIR HEADS AT

"I just think they've got a great team. They've got Tom Brady. They've been the best team in the conference, and it's going to be our toughest challenge of the year." – John Harbaugh, Ravens coach, on Monday night’s matchup