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Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Recapping top Patriots themes

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Recapping some of the media-based themes from the Patriots' locker room Wednesday:

Mankins
1. Mankins' potential shift to left tackle draws attention: This was the one story that seemed to capture the most attention, perhaps sparked by Bill Belichick's remarks in his Wednesday news conference. Mankins drew a huge media crowd and explained that he's obviously most comfortable at guard but has backed up at tackle and center in the past and "could do all of them if I was needed."

With the uncertain status of starting left tackle Nate Solder (head injury, did not practice), one of the top storylines leading up to Sunday's game will be how the Patriots potentially fill that void.

"I don't know what our plan is this week. We have a bunch of different options," Mankins said, adding that he practiced at left guard and left tackle Wednesday.

As for his emergency work at left tackle in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Dolphins, the 6-foot-4, 308-pound Mankins said: "I always watched Matt Light for all those years and we're kind of the same size, so I figure when I'm out there I should try to do what he did."

The Ravens have two excellent edge rushers in Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. It could end up being Mankins' responsibility to block them if he kicks outside.

"I've lined up across from those guys a bunch of times, but usually they're always on the tackle," he said. "They've both played in this league a long time and I've seen them on film tons of times. They're both powerful guys."

2. Vereen prepares for a physical test ... and extra attention: When running back Shane Vereen was asked what stands out to him about the Ravens' defense, he used one word -- "physical."

Vereen also was asked about how the Dolphins devoted extra attention to him in last Sunday's 24-20 loss after his big performance against the Browns on Dec. 6.

"It was the first time it ever happened, really, to me," he said humbly. "You never really know what to expect. You have to think fast and be able to work regardless of the situation."

3. Hoomanawanui's return to the lineup: Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who returned to action Sunday for the first time since injuring his knee Nov. 18 at Carolina, was one of six players drawing a large media crowd (along with Mankins, Vereen, running back Brandon Bolden, special teams captain Matthew Slater and safety Steve Gregory).

He felt like the team had a good practice Wednesday inside the stadium and laughed when asked about his one-handed, 13-yard touchdown catch against the Dolphins. "It just kind of happened," said Hoomanawanui, who later revealed that he's ambidextrous.

Hoomanawanui played 71 of 82 snaps against the Dolphins as the No. 1 option at the position now that Rob Gronkowski is on season-ending injured reserve.