What heroics, we thought, when a hobbled Logan Mankins was set to return for the postseason just weeks after spraining his MCL in his left knee sometime during the Dolphins, Part Deux. What bravery—and a Patriot-esque "team-first" attitude to boot. While it didn't surprise many that the stalwart, tough-as-nails left guard would be so anxious to return even after such a debilitating injury, playing through an incredible amount of pain at an elite level and under the sweat-inducing spotlight of the league's biggest stage was unprecedented. While Mankins certainly showed a few chinks in his Pro Bowl-caliber armor throughout the postseason, the fact that he was able to be serviceable at all in both the running and passing game was nothing short of miraculous. After finally going under the knife for a corrective surgery following the Super Bowl, the Patriots crossed their fingers for a speedy recovery and we, as fans, were hopeful to see one of the NFL's premiere offensive linemen return in time for a successful 2012 campaign.
As it turns out, Mankins played through the entire 2012 season with a torn ACL in his right knee, sustaining the injury as early as week one during the Dolphins, Part Un. Adam Schefter broke the news this weekend with a story that is, quite frankly, unbelievable. An injury that indefinitely sidelines even the most revered players—most recently including the Patriots' own Wes Welker and Tom Brady—is merely described by Mankins as being "not the ideal situation."
Symptoms of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (after the initial loud "snap" or "pop") are described as being severely painful with the "inability to put weight on the point without pain." If left untreated, ACLs will act up months or even years later with the constant feeling that your knee can give out at any moment when twisting or pivoting it. Quite the feel-good security blanket for playing one of the most difficult positions in all of professional football.
How long this story was able to go completely undetected isn't all that surprising considering the tight-lipped ethos of the Patriots organization. What is surprising, however, is an athlete putting mind over matter to such a degree that it just about defies the laws of physics. For a position that preaches leverage and infallible technique, performing and executing said duties without two fully functioning legs is nearly impossible to comprehend. Maybe there is something to Tom Brady's nuances in masterfully and calmly maneuvering in the pocket; the knowledge that one of your linemen would be able to keep you upright with just a torso remaining is bound to count a few extra sheep each night.