FOXBOROUGH — As he starts his 10th NFL season, Logan Mankins isn’t necessarily looking forward to the rigors of training camp, but he can appreciate its purpose.
“At this point you’d just rather get to the games, but I understand what training camp is for. It’s needed, it’s necessary,” Mankins said on Wednesday morning. “It’s just one of those things you have to put yourself through and it makes you better, it gets you in good shape, so it’s necessary.”
Patriots veterans were due at Gillette Stadium by Wednesday for physicals and to take their conditioning test in advance of the team’s first training camp practice on Thursday beginning at 9:15 a.m. To kick things off, Mankins, Devin McCourty, and Rob Ninkovich met with reporters.
After sporting a full beard in recent years, Mankins took the podium clean-shaven. The change was so stark that after a photo of him talking was posted on Twitter, fans commented that he was nearly unrecognizable.
Mankins, one of the longest-tenured players on the roster, said camp isn’t just a time for him to get in shape; it’s also a time for him to learn about his teammates’ mettle.
“You learn from the new guys what they’re willing to put themselves through, how good a shape guys are in, if they’re willing — when we’re doing drills that are really tough and you’re already tired and you see what they’ve got, so it’s always a fun time, but it’s a hard time,” he said.
Camp is for one thing, Mankins noted: Earning your job.
The offensive line returns all five starters, though Dan Connolly, who started 16 games at right guard last season, would appear to be on shaky ground given his high salary and challenges from Marcus Cannon, Josh Kline, and rookie Jon Halapio.
Mankins likes continuity, but he noted that the younger players are coming along.
“We do have a lot of veterans returning and we have some new young guys that are fitting in nicely so far, and it’s always good to know the guys you’re with, that you can trust them and stuff like that. That’s good,” Mankins said.
The unit also has a new coach, Dave DeGuglielmo. Mankins said “Googs,” as the players call him, is loud but gets his point across.
More will be learned, Mankins said, when the linemen are in pads. Throughout the spring, players were in helmets and couldn’t hit, and under the collective bargaining agreement teams cannot put players in full pads until the third day of training camp.
So Mankins and the rest of his guys in the trenches are looking forward to Saturday.
“I think the first few days in shells, I think they’re good. Guys get their legs under them, you get to have a few practices, a lot of running around and stuff, you get your legs and kind of your footwork back underneath you and then you get back into pads,” he said. “I know a lot of guys aren’t really as excited for pads like the quarterbacks and them, those guys that don’t hit, but the linemen, we hit every play in the pads, so it’s a different practice for us.
“It’s good. Football, you’re hitting, so might as well hit in practice.”
Mankins, 32, was asked how many more seasons he thinks he has left.
“I don’t know. That’s a good question. It depends on health, I think, and if they want to keep me around,” he said. “I just want to play until I think I don’t feel good and if I can still do it. If I can’t, I don’t think I’ll keep going once I don’t feel that I’m playing the way that I want to.”