FOXBORO, Mass. — There's a dark-horse candidate who could swoop in and take over as the Patriots' starting left guard.
By now, you know five-year starter Logan Mankins would rather bathe in sulfuric acid and roll around in a beach full of salt rather than suit up again in New England.
So, the Patriots immediately looked toward tackle Nick Kaczur to jump in at left guard, but Kaczur succumbed to an apparent back injury during the third practice of training camp. Dan Connolly, who started four games at right guard in 2009, was another candidate for Mankins' old post.
Connolly is still getting looks at left guard, but it appears as though the coaching staff is more comfortable putting Connolly on the right side, where he's filled in for Stephen Neal on the first unit.
Enter Ryan Wendell — Mankins' former teammate at Fresno State — who has run with the ones more and more in the last few days. He's versatile enough to play any of the three interior positions, but the coaching staff has given him a big opportunity to line up at left guard.
"To be on this team, you have to be able to play more than one position," Wendell said. "The more you can do — the fact that they move guys around and everything like that is just more opportunities for us. I'm happy to play wherever they put me."
It's obviously way too early to determine who will start at left guard, but if momentum is any indication, Wendell has as good of a shot as Kaczur and Connolly. If Kaczur returns to the field in the next week, however, he'll likely resume his role as the starter in the preseason opener against the Saints.
Still, Wendell knows there's an open door, and that’s all he can ask for at this point.
"I feel like there's always opportunities," Wendell said. "We just go out there and work hard, and [the coaches] will put us where they feel is best."