FOXBOROUGH — It’s part of NFL life to see a player need help getting off the field because of an injury.
It’s rare that the player is Logan Mankins.
Already lauded by Bill Belichick and teammates alike for his toughness — this is the man, after all, that played much of the 2011 season, including Super Bowl XLVI, with a torn anterior cruciate ligament — Mankins surprised even them Sunday.
Mankins, 31, was hurt during LeGarrette Blount’s 36-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter, and had each arm around a member of the medical staff as he slowly made his way off the field.
He would go back to the locker room, with the team announcing an ankle injury, but a short time later, he returned to the sideline, and went back into the game, missing just one offensive series.
“There’s nobody tougher than Logan Mankins,” said Tom Brady, “so you know when he’s getting helped up, you know he’s not feeling good, but he fought through it. There’s nobody that I’ve ever played with that is as tough as him. He’s right up there — Matt Light was so tough, [Joe] Andruzzi, but Logan is second to none.”
Belichick gave no argument, and even said he was surprised to see Mankins return.
“First of all, I agree with Tom in terms of toughness,” said Belichick. “I’ve coached a lot of tough guys and I don’t think there’s any that I would put ahead of him. Maybe some on that level, but none ahead. Any time Logan needs helps getting off the field, you feel like it’s something serious.
“Usually he just ends up staying out there, but for him to need assistance getting off the field was definitely a concerning moment. Then when [head trainer] Jim Whelan came back and told me after the next series that Logan was back, I was a little bit surprised to hear that.
“He’s a tough individual, tough-minded, physically and mentally tough. I think we have a lot of that on our team but certainly he, along with all of our captains, they’re all very physically and mentally tough guys. They’ve given us a lot of leadership and toughness, but Logan certainly gave us a lot yesterday. It was an incredible performance.”
There was a walking boot at Mankins’s locker Monday. Because the Patriots do not play this week, they are not required to produce injury reports.
However, a league source said Sunday night that Brandon Spikes, who limped off the field late in the game and has been dealing with a knee ligament injury for much of the season, did not do further damage, and it is a matter of pain management for the linebacker at this point. He will require surgery when the season ends.
There was no word on receiver Aaron Dobson’s status; he left the game after aggravating a foot injury while chasing a deep pass in the first half.
There are three teams the Patriots could face in the divisional round — No. 3 seed Cincinnati, No. 4 Indianapolis, or No. 5 Kansas City — but they won’t know who will be making the trip to Gillette Stadium for a Jan. 11 game until Sunday afternoon, after the Bengals-Chargers game.
Because of that, it sounds as though the coaching staff will spend little, if any, time with players discussing the strengths and weaknesses of those teams, since time spent on two of them would essentially be time wasted.
“First things first, which is getting through this [Buffalo] game, and also to a degree the Baltimore game, because that was another kind of quick week for us because of the Christmas holiday, so we never really cleaned up some things from that game,” Belichick said.
“We have some familiarity with Cincinnati obviously [the teams met in Week 5], but not with Kansas City and not with Indianapolis, at least not this year. So we have to make some determinations as to how to organize our preparation and so forth.
“But I’d say for right now, our focus is trying to get through the Buffalo, and to a certain extent, the Baltimore game, and make sure we take care of what’s in our house and do the best we can to, regardless of who we play, get some things straightened out and adjusted.
“Then at some point we’ll turn and look forward to our next matchup. I think it starts with just the Patriots.”
The Patriots had four fumbles Sunday, though they were able to recover all of them; the only turnover was a second-half interception by Manny Lawson after Shane Vereen couldn’t come down with a Brady pass. “It was too many,” Belichick said of the fumbles. “Obviously it was a tough day with the ball handling, but our goal every week is to not turn the ball over and to not fumble it, to not have it intercepted, to not have kicks blocked. It’s all about ball protection, and even though the conditions were difficult, our expectations are still that we do that. Had those turnovers occurred, we might not be talking about the same kind of outcome that we had. We’re fortunate to get away with those, no question.”