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Talks with Brady, Patriots teammates spurred Mankins' return

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Logan Mankins waited at his home a few miles from the New England Patriots' stadium, missing the game he loves but sticking with his decision to hold out.

Conversations with Tom Brady and other teammates might have helped change his mind.

"When ... you're getting advice from Tom, you always know it's good advice, because he's really thinking about what he's saying," Mankins said before returning to practice Wednesday after a 4½-month absence.

The two-time Pro Bowl left guard ended his holdout by accepting a $1.54 million tender offer Monday. He had been a restricted free agent once his original five-year contract expired after last season and stayed away when he failed to get an extension.

But instead of returning to his native California, Mankins said he stayed in the Foxborough area since April. He spent time with his teammates, playing golf and eating together. He had plenty of chances to chat with them and found them to be supportive.

Brady, the franchise quarterback he's protected for five seasons, was one of them.

"I think you just always try to express support, and you understand what he's going through and the tough decisions that are made," Brady said. "But also maybe a different perspective from a player that's been through it. Like I said, I've been around for a while now, longer than most everybody in this locker room, so I think I just try to share a little bit of insight, and maybe it can create some awareness for them."

Said Mankins: "I'm happy to be back, I got a lot of friends here, a lot of guys I got a lot of respect for and love playing with so it was good to see everyone again. When I let a bunch of guys know the day before, everyone was pretty happy I was coming back so I knew I had a lot of support here."

The Patriots received a two-week roster exemption for Mankins, The Associated Press reported, and he could be activated this week, but he hasn't hit other players, so whether he plays Sunday at the Cleveland Browns depends on how he adjusts in practice.

Mankins had to report by Nov. 16 to gain a year of service time and become an unrestricted free agent after this season.

"I'm not going to get into why I came back now," he said. "I'm not looking at it as if I'm early. I'm eight weeks late."

After Mankins declined to sign the original tender offer of $3.25 million by June 14, the day before a three-day minicamp, it was lowered to its current amount. And that will be prorated because he missed seven games.

He declined comment on whether he'd like to stay with the Patriots for a long time, but, when asked if he got what he wanted from his holdout, he said: "Not at the moment."

Mankins started all 80 regular-season games and nine playoff games since the Patriots chose him with the 23rd pick in the 2005 draft out of Fresno State.

But the Patriots have done quite well so far without him.

Their 6-1 record is the best in the NFL, and Brady has been sacked just 12 times with Dan Connolly handling Mankins' position.

Once he's ready, Mankins is almost certain to reclaim his spot. Connolly also joined the NFL in 2005, but as an undrafted free agent with Jacksonville. He had played just 15 games in his first five seasons, so Mankins' holdout gave him an opportunity to show what he could do.

"I think I performed well while I was in the situation," Connolly said. "All I can do is prepare myself for every game just like I have. There's no telling what's going to happen once the game starts. I may be right back in there, so I've just got to prepare myself for all those positions" on the offensive line.

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"I'm good friends with Logan," Connolly said. "It's good to see him here."

Mankins is back doing what he loves.

"It was tough" to stay away, he said. "I love football, and I wanted to be out there playing, but we had some other things going on. But now I'm back and ready to go."

Are there any regrets that he lost time and money and ended up where he started, with the Patriots and without a contract extension?

"Not right now," Mankins said. "Maybe down the road I'll look back and wish I didn't, or maybe I'll be happy I did. I don't know. We'll find out, though."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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