Commentary

Patriots, Mankins haven't budged

As training camp nears, it appears Pro Bowl lineman isn't in the current plans

Updated: July 27, 2010, 12:14 AM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

The New England Patriots open training camp Thursday, and there has been no movement with offensive lineman Logan Mankins on a contract extension.

The sides have not spoken about a potential contract since Mankins publicly requested a trade in June and did not attend the team's mandatory minicamp. It's a standoff, and barring a change over the next five days, Mankins does not plan to show up for training camp, either.

While the Patriots and Mankins' representatives have not found a middle ground in contract talks, they probably could agree on this: The Patriots will face a significant challenge without Mankins, as the reconfiguration of the offensive line is one of the top issues facing the team entering camp.

At mandatory minicamp in June, the team had tackle Nick Kaczur working at left guard, with rising second-year man Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle. That's probably how the Patriots will line up on the first day of training camp, minus arguably their top blocker.

[+] EnlargeNick Kaczur
Geoff Burke/US PresswireNick Kaczur is likely to see more time at left guard if Logan Mankins holds out from Patriots training camp.

Mankins has been as steady as they come since joining the team as a first-round draft choice (32nd overall) in 2005. He bought his first suit for his initial introduction as a Patriot and explained that day that he wasn't a suit-and-tie guy, but instead someone who liked to get his hands dirty, as he had for years growing up on a 10,000-acre cattle ranch in Catheys Valley, Calif.

That approach has been evident on the football field when considering …

1. He has started every possible game at left guard (80 regular-season games; 9 playoff games).

2. His playing-time percentage is 98.8 over his five-year career, according to the NFL Players Association. Last season, according to the website ProFootballFocus.com, he played more snaps than any other guard in the NFL (1,141 snaps).

3. He has never missed a practice.

In other words, the 28-year-old Mankins, who has played in two Pro Bowls and was an alternate for a third, has held the fort. The Patriots put him at left guard during his first practice in 2005 training camp, and he's been a fixture since, exhibiting toughness and durability, much like the blue and brown 1987 Ford truck with 218,000 miles that he drove before he was drafted.

His body of work earned him a spot on the Patriots' All-Decade Team, and, naturally, filling that void won't be easy.

If Kaczur struggles in making the switch to guard, the fallback plan probably would be to have five-year veteran Dan Connolly step in. Connolly started four games last season, filling in at right guard for Stephen Neal. It was the first starting experience of his career.

Rich Ohrnberger (2009 fourth-round pick), George Bussey (2009 fifth-round pick), Ryan Wendell (2009 practice squad player) and Ted Larsen (2010 sixth-round pick) are farther down the depth chart but also possibilities to emerge with a strong camp.

The Patriots have had a solid run at the left guard spot in Bill Belichick's tenure, with Joe Andruzzi, Mike Compton, Damien Woody and Mankins. All were solid contributors.

Now another change is in the offing, and its impact can't be minimized.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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