FOXBOROUGH, MASS. (AP) - Offensive lineman Logan Mankins played just eight games and still made the Pro Bowl.
The left guard isn’t thinking much about any of those games. His focus is on Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins, even though it has no impact on either team’s place in the standings.
“I have such a hard time looking past one week at a time,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t even want to speculate what I’d be looking forward to.”
Mankins was chosen for his third Pro Bowl despite sitting out the first seven games in a contract dispute.
The Patriots lost his first game back but have won all seven since. Mankins‘ ability to shove aside defenders has been a big reason for the team’s improved running game, Tom Brady’s lack of an interception in those eight games and the NFL-best 13-2 record that earned the Patriots homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
Mankins is signed through this season after sitting out while trying to get an extension, but said he doesn’t have extra motivation just to show he deserves one.
“I tend to play hard the majority of the time,” he said, “so I don’t think I’m playing for a contract right now.”
Coaches agree that his work ethic and toughness are exceptional.
“He’s known throughout the league for his physical play and the fact that he’s a smart guy,” Miami coach Tony Sparano said.
Mankins‘ own coach, Bill Belichick, also described him as tough and smart.
“It means a lot,” Mankins said. “I’d hate to be known as a wimp or a dummy.”
That description doesn’t fit the other five Patriots selected to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday _ Brady, defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, linebacker Jerod Mayo, cornerback Devin McCourty and safety Brandon Meriweather.
Brady was chosen for the sixth time in his 11 seasons and is a leading candidate for the league’s MVP. He leads the NFL in passer rating, in touchdown passes with 34 and in fewest interceptions with four. He hasn’t had a pass picked off in 10 games.
“It blows my mind a little bit,” Sparano said, “when you think about tipped balls or the level of play in secondaries now in this league and how good those people are in the back end.”