FOXBOROUGH — Before Tuesday’s early afternoon practice, Bill Belichick broke some news to his players. Logan Mankins, the six-time Pro Bowler and career Patriot, was out.
The fallout of the announcement showed in practice.
“The atmosphere was a little down today about what happened today with Logan,” said Darrelle Revis, a short-term Mankins teammate. “But at the same time, we’ve got to go out there and execute our jobs.
“It’s very sad. He’s been here for a long time. I’ve got a lot of respect for him after playing against him in the past. He’s a class act.
“That’s how the business goes. I wish him the best and wish we wouldn’t even be talking about this at this point. But it is what it is.”
After practice, Mankins’s gear remained in his stall. His helmet hung on a peg. Shoes littered the floor. Shirts hung on a rack.
But Mankins, wheeled to Tampa Bay for tight end Tim Wright and a 2015 fourth-round pick, was considered an ex-employee well before then. He didn’t practice with the only NFL team he’s ever known.
After only one session without him, his fellow muckers in the trenches were already feeling his absence.
“Man, what an awesome guy, what an awesome player,” said left tackle Nate Solder, who stood alongside Mankins to protect Tom Brady. “So honored to play with that guy. So honored to get to know him and his family. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
Over the last three years, Solder played with Mankins in 40 of the team’s 48 regular-season games. Solder knew Mankins as well as anyone.
“He’s an extremely genuine person, authentic,” Solder said. “He does what he says. Everything about the guy is genuine.”
On the other hand, Revis never played a game with Mankins as a teammate. The only opportunities Revis had to get to know Mankins were as an adversary. In those clashes, Revis saw enough to learn that Mankins was a fiery, competitive, and talented guard who didn’t make things easy for opposing defenses.
“I’ve only been here for a couple months, but Mankins is known around the league as being one of the best offensive linemen in the game,” Revis said. “He’s proven that. He’s done it for a long time.
“You’ve just got to look at it as respecting him. Even though I’ve been his teammate for only a couple months, I respect him from playing against him in the past.”
Revis is more familiar with Wright, his former Tampa Bay teammate, than Mankins. The Buccaneers signed Wright as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers on April 29, 2013. Wright, a former wide receiver, started eight of 16 games last year. He had 54 receptions for 571 yards and five touchdowns.
The second-year pro will join Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui in New England’s tight end corps.
“We’re getting a solid player who can catch, who can run, and run great routes,” Revis said. “He was a wide receiver coming in and they switched him to tight end. So he has a lot of speed at the tight end position.”
Wright may be another receiving option for Brady, but he and his counterparts will need time to run their routes and separate from defenders.
For that to happen, the Patriots will need their lesser-known linemen to assume Mankins’s workload. Marcus Cannon, once projected to be a reserve, could be the starting left guard against Miami Sept. 7. Others in the running include Josh Kline, Jordan Devey, and Jon Halapio.
“Ton of confidence,” Solder said of his feeling toward the young players. “Those guys work so hard. They’re awesome people. Ton of confidence.”
Before Tuesday’s practice, Belichick called this a stressful time for everybody on the team. Coaches are considering roster movement while preparing for Thursday’s preseason finale against the Giants and planning for the regular-season opener. Players are worried about their jobs.
So what was already a nervous dressing room became even edgier following the Mankins trade.
“Him and his family had hosted me for Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas dinners,” said receiver Julian Edelman.
“It’s surprising but not surprising. It’s just the nature of the business. I wish him and his family the best.
“He’s been a big help in my career just to see a guy come in, do his job, not say a word, play with the tenacity that he does. He’s an unbelievable player, great captain. He’s a great teammate.”