It seems like the sun is the only thing Logan Mankins can’t block.
Mankins, a Pro Bowler who is entering his fifth season as the New England Patriots’ starting left guard, left Sunday’s training camp practice due to cramping in his legs, a result of the oppressive heat. He was taking a penalty lap toward the end of practice when he slowed down, put his hands on his hips, then his knees and eventually got down on all fours. Mankins was taken off the field on a cart, initially causing a bit of concern, but he returned to practice Monday morning.
“It was just a heat thing,” Mankins said before providing the important medical analysis. “I’m still alive.”
Rookie guard Rich Ohrnberger also succumbed to the heat but didn’t return to practice Monday. Like Mankins, though, Ohrnberger’s condition was not considered serious.
“It was a tough practice, but most of the guys got through it,” Mankins said of Sunday’s session. “We had a couple guys that didn’t.”
Mankins is one of the premier guards in the NFL, and he’s a leader on the offensive line. Once he got carted off the field, he left himself open to some serious ribbing from his teammates — after they found out he was all right, of course — similar to Paul Pierce’s wheelchair incident during the 2008 NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
“Yeah, that pretty much started [Sunday] night,” Patriots center Dan Koppen said of the jokes being tossed in Mankins’ direction. “It’s a shame. You don’t like to see that, but like I said, fortunately, they’re OK. We can move on and learn from it.”
Staying hydrated was a primary concern during Monday’s practices, and it will remain a priority Tuesday as well, with temperatures expected to reach the mid-90s. The Patriots were well-educated on handling the heat before they began training camp, and the team’s medical staff is always on high alert during these conditions, particularly during double sessions with the players in full pads.
It’s a tough situation to judge. From the outside, it might be too easy to suggest a lighter workload when the practice field feels like the Sahara Desert. But the Patriots know they’ve got to get themselves conditioned to play against warm-weather teams, such as the Atlanta Falcons, who visit Gillette Stadium in Week 3. Plus, the southern-born players, who once lived in this weather year-round, joke that it’s like a cold breeze compared to the climate back home.
But the bottom line is this: League-wide, the players are much more aware of how to handle the heat than ever before. Since the 2001 death of Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Korey Stringer, the NFL has made strides to keep players as safe as possible when the temperature peaks.
“That never entered my mind [Sunday afternoon], but when you think about it, that is a scary situation,” Mankins said of Stringer’s heat-related death during the Vikings’ training camp. “That’s why they tell us if you’re feeling anything not normal, you should sit down, and take a play or two off and regain [energy] until you feel good again.”