Guard Logan Mankins is among the veterans on the Patriots who lead not only with their play on the field, but their demeanor and work ethic off of it. His newest teammate, cornerback Aqib Talib, is a player that has had his fair share of trouble off the field, including a recent suspension for Adderall use that he is currently serving.
The checkered past has led some to wonder if Talib fits in with the "Patriot Way." Mankins, appearing on the "Mut & Merloni" show on WEEI sports radio in Boston on Monday, said that Talib's potential success with the Patriots is up to Talib.
"I haven't met him yet and I don't know a whole lot about him other than what I've heard," Mankins said when asked about the 26-year-old cornerback. "We'll see when he gets here, and when you bring players in, it's up to them. If they want to put in the work, they can watch the leaders around here and see how we do things. If they want to be lazy and do things their way, it's not going to work. I'm sure Bill [Belichick] did his homework and he's bringing in a guy that wants to play and wants to win. If he wants to play and wants to win, this is a place to come to and just do what you're supposed to do and do what the coaches ask of you and you'll be successful."
The team has previously brought in perceived "problem athletes" who didn't fit the customary Patriot mold. Mankins said that leaders on the team have not typically spoken to those players right away about their behavior, but have instead given them time to show they're willing to buy in.
"Not right away, I think you give them the benefit of the doubt and you try to see if they're willing to do everything," he said. "People know with our coaches, if they're not willing to do that they're not going to last long. We've seen that in the past where guys have come in and they're not willing to do it, and then they're unemployed or looking for a job somewhere else. It's up to the player, and if they want to do it, this team is willing to keep them around, and if they don't want to do it, we'll find somebody that wants to."
Mankins says the first sign of a player who wants to be a part of the program starts in practice.
"For us it starts at practice," Mankins noted. "If someone's working hard at practice, if they're working hard out there, and putting in the time with the coaches studying, if they're doing all the little things that it takes, we know they're here for the right reasons. If they're not working hard and not taking the coaching, it's pretty obvious. Guys that really want to be good players, you can tell right away."
Beyond Talib, Mankins took time to answer some other questions relating to his health and the offensive line.
On being injured (he's missed the past two games with calf/hip issues) and having to watch his teammates from the sideline.
"It's been really hard. I don't think there's anything worse than being hurt, having an injury where you can't be out there with the guys practicing or playing. And you see those guys leaving to go to a game, flying out and you're stuck here in Foxborough, that's really tough."
On the offensive line stepping up in 2012 despite questions entering the season.
"We knew coming into the year we had to get together and do a good job. We had a bunch of new guys playing and guys at a bunch of different positions than they were playing last year. It's been up and down, we haven't played perfect, but we've improved every week and that's what we wanted to do. Get better each week and hopefully by the end of the season we'll be playing really good football."
On center Ryan Wendell's performance so far.
"Ryan, he's done a great job. He had a great camp and that's why he won the job. Since he's been here he's just improved every year, and now he's playing really good football. He's our little drill sergeant out there on the field, trying to make all the calls for us and get us lined up and making front calls and everything. He's done a really good job, him and Tom are usually on the same page, and he's playing really good. He plays hard, he's very aggressive, he's everything we want from a center."
On the Pats running the football as successfully as they have.
"Every year we've wanted to, it's just sometimes we didn't. A lot of that goes on the players. If you don't do it good, the coach isn't going to keep calling it. I think this year we've been pretty productive, and it goes down to the backs. The backs have been outstanding. [Stevan] Ridley's run great, breaks a lot of tackles, and the line's done a pretty good job, the tight ends have done a good job, and we've hit a lot of longer runs this year too. And that goes down to the receivers getting blocks downfield, it's just a good team effort on that, and when everyone is doing the right thing it's been pretty good."