A year ago, Logan Mankins didn't sound like a happy camper.
He wasn't even in camp, in fact.
But with a newly signed, $10 million contract, he looks and sounds today like a man with peace of mind. He also sounds as if he'd like to stay beyond the length of his current one-year deal.
"Oh, yeah, there's always a chance," he declared after Thursday's early evening practice. "I've talked to the coaches, ownership, everyone, and we're all on the same page. We'll see what happens.
"Yeah, I have great memories here, had a lot of fun, I like everyone here. I understand it's a business now more than ever. So, we'll see what happens."
One point Mankins was intent on clearing up was his relationship with team owner Robert Kraft, particularly after a series of strong comments he made in June of last year. Mankins insisted that his invective was never directed at the owner.
"Let's get things straight: me and Mr. Kraft never had a problem. I never said he lied. When I said 'the organization,' I never said he did it. Let's get that straight right now. Me and Mr. Kraft never had a problem. We talked last offseason, we talked last season, we talked this offseason, we talked in training camp. Everything's good between me and him.
"This year," he continued, "I'm putting everything behind me and trying to have a good year, help the team. If I play good, things will take care of themselves."
One reporter asked why he chose to sign his tender and report to camp on time instead of holding out till mid-season like he did a year ago. His response was characteristically Mankins-esque – wry, concise, and a bit playful.
"Well," he grinned, "I figured I'm getting paid a lot of money this year, I should put in a full year."
Because of the new collective bargaining agreement rules, Mankins and other players like him who signed new contracts couldn't report until today, when the new NFL league year officially began. Consequently, this was Mankins' first full-pads practice of the season, and he had a chance to do battle with newly-acquired defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, apparently with mixed results.
"Yeah, Albert, he's a good player. Big, strong guy. The first one, I was glad I got him, but the second one, he got me," Mankins explained. "So, it's going to go back and forth like that, but we're happy to have him here.
"If Albert practices hard, that'll make me better, too."
Several times, Mankins had the opportunity to line up next to first-round draft choice Nate Solder, who also suited up for the first time, having just inked his contract right before practice.
Mankins' first impression?
"Well, I've met him a few times, he's a good guy. Today was his first day of practice, so I guess when we get in on the film I'll be able to see what he's like as a player, but, overall, as a personality and as a person, I like him."
Speaking of Solder, he and the other members of the 2011 draft class were trotted out to reporters for the first time since camp opened a week ago.
Solder was first up, and he was asked to assess his first outing as a pro.
"It's too early … it's hard to say," he replied. "It's never as good as you think or as bad as you think, you know what I'm saying?"
From a conditioning perspective, he seemed to hold up as well.
"It's not the first day of camp that's the tough one," Solder observed, "it's the fifteenth, twentieth. I felt good today."
Quarterback Ryan Mallett has been getting plenty of action as well, especially now that the team is down to just three QBs.
Rookies, particularly rookie signal callers, often comment on how much faster the NFL game is to college – a point Mallett acknowledged.
"The game is fast. At every level, it gets faster. I've just got to be able to adapt and adjust and react at the same speed."
Mentally as well as physically?
"Yeah, that's what I'm working on," he added, "is trying to get everything where it's 'Boom, boom, boom.' Chronological order and thinking fast."
On the other side of the ball, meantime, OLB/DE Markell Carter, the first of this year's picks to sign, has been on the field every day of camp thus far. Coming from a small, Division I-AA program, where he played mostly as a down lineman, he's been seeing some similar looks after a week in camp, as New England has played considerable 4-3 defense.
Has that, he was asked, been helpful in adjusting?
"I played a 4-man front in college, but of course, college football and NFL football are two totally different things," he stated. "There are things I have to work on every single day as far as technique. Just little things that could help my game."