Left guard Logan Mankins officially reported to the Patriots on Tuesday morning to sign his contract tender and help the team get ready for Sunday's game against the Browns.
"Logan came in," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. "I met with him this morning. It's good to have him back on the team. He's part of the team here now. He's reported, and he's been a great player and person for our football team. He's tough. He's smart. He's a dependable player. He's done all those things since he's been here, and you just can't have too many guys like that on your football team. So we're glad he's back."
Since Mankins was a restricted free agent, and it was his decision alone not to sign his contract tender, Belichick said he expected to be granted a roster exemption from the NFL. The length of the exemption would be determined by the league, but it's likely Mankins will be given a one- or two-week window when he won't count against the Patriots' 53-man roster.
This will give him an opportunity to get in shape and practice with the team, but the Patriots would also catch a break because they wouldn?t need to waste a roster spot on a guy who wasn?t conditioned to play in a game. Belichick hoped to know one way or the other by Tuesday afternoon.
"That transaction hasn?t been turned in yet, so that won't and wouldn?t happen until later on [Tuesday]," Belichick said. "But I would expect [an exemption], though, yes."
Mankins needed to be under contract for six games in order to earn an accrued season, which ensures he'll be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. However, the possibility remains he could still work toward a contract extension with the Patriots, and his decision to report to the team a few weeks earlier than expected could be an indication that Mankins' ill will toward the organization has dissipated.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio would not comment on contract talks.
"It?s good that he's here, which means he's really not different than any other player that is on the team or in the building," Caserio said. "They'll start to prepare for the opponent, and then we'll make the decision about who plays based on how they practice, how the meetings go, who is healthy, etcetera. Logan has been a good player for us. He's been solid. He's been reliable. I think he has a lot of the traits and characteristics that we look for in players, so it's good to have him around here in the building."
It would seem unlikely Mankins would be ready to play against the Browns this Sunday, and the Patriots wouldn?t need to rush him into action because Dan Connolly has played well in Mankins' absence.
At least now, the Patriots have that option, and Belichick sounded like a man who wanted to concentrate on Mankins' contributions to the football field, rather than his lengthy holdout and angry comments toward the organization's business tactics.
"I don?t want to get into any of that," Belichick said. "It doesn?t matter. Right now, [Mankins] is here. We're getting ready for Cleveland. We've got a big game on Sunday, and that?s really where all of our focus is. I don?t want to rehash anything that has gone on in the past. It's all behind us."