When he did in the Dec. 29 season finale against the Buffalo Bills, he was thinking along the lines of many Patriots followers. He feared the worst.
“That always creeps in there at first,” Mankins admitted Thursday, the first time he’s answered questions from reporters since the game. “Usually when you get an injury, that’s the first thing that crosses your mind, that you’re going to be out for a while. Then you just take a few moments and really see what’s going on.”
Mankins ultimately returned to the game with his injured ankle heavily taped, but he was clearly hobbled. He was held out of practice last week and has been limited this week.
If the Patriots hadn’t earned a bye week, it would have been a tougher turnaround for Mankins to prepare for the playoffs.
“The bye week was huge,” he said. “I’m sure everyone saw me hobbling around. It was nice to get that extra week of treatment in. … It’s going [well]; it’s improved every day.”
There has been little doubt that Mankins will play Saturday, as his toughness and pain threshold have been lauded by coaches and teammates. Bill Belichick, for one, said Mankins is among the toughest players he’s coached in his 39-year career.
Mankins was asked where that toughness came from.
“I learned that kind of stuff from my dad [Tim], and the guys that he worked with [as a cattle rancher],” he said. “They are all tough guys, and they always took pride in never missing days of work and always being there no matter what the circumstances were.”
Mankins often joined his father at work in Catheys Valley, Calif.
“Growing up on a ranch, you don’t have much of a choice, if you don’t want to work or not,” he said. “There are many days where you’re pulled away from school to go work. We learned that young.”