Predictably, coach mum on Mankins
FOXBOROUGH — Any true Patriots fan, or any media member who has spent a season or two covering the team, knew what Bill Belichick’s answers would be yesterday when asked about disgruntled offensive lineman Logan Mankins.
But the questions had to be asked of the Patriots coach and de facto general manager, whose first true news conference since the NFL draft came less than 24 hours after his two-time Pro Bowl left guard demanded a trade and accused his team of being misleading in contract negotiations.
True to form, Belichick gave his stock response when it comes to money matters.
“Well, right now we’re just focusing on coaching the players that are here,’’ Belichick said. “I think we’ll go out and get things done, hopefully have a good practice today, and that’s where our emphasis is: the guys that are here.’’
Asked to characterize contract talks, Belichick replied, “I think the situation between anybody and the club from a contract situation is between them and the club.’’
There was other talk during the session, which took place before the first of New England’s three on-field mandatory minicamp practices, about what Belichick hopes to accomplish during the camp and the team’s other organized team activities this spring, and how rookies Taylor Price (academics schedule) and Kade Weston (visa problems) would be affected by missing so much time.
The topic of the day, however, was Mankins, who took the un-Patriot-like step of calling out the organization publicly Monday, and is refusing to sign the restricted free agent tender offered him. In turn, the Patriots — as is their right — cut the amount of the tender from $3.268 million to $1.54 million (the second number represents 110 percent of Mankins’s 2009 salary).
Belichick essentially didn’t comment when asked if Mankins has informed the team of his desire to be traded and when the last time he spoke to the former top draft pick was; both queries were met with the answer of contract matters staying between a player and the club.
Without Mankins on the field, New England primarily used Nick Kaczur — the starting right tackle for much of the last few seasons — at left guard, with second-year man Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle. Versatile interior lineman Dan Connolly also took some snaps at left guard.
“I think he’s doing all right,’’ Belichick said. “It’s a long rehab. He’s done quite a bit. He’s still got a long way to go. I know he’s working really hard. I’m impressed with his work ethic, as you always are with Wes. That’s the way he is.’’
Welker underwent surgery to repair a torn left ACL Feb. 2, a month after he tore it and his MCL in the regular-season finale in Houston.
Defensive lineman Weston, born in Trinidad & Tobago, had difficulty acquiring a work visa.
“They’re behind, no doubt about it,’’ Belichick said. “But they have done, I think, as much as they can do as far as studying and trying to keep up on the material even though they haven’t had the involvement that most of the other players have.’’