Bucs teammates elated to land Pro Bowl guard Mankins
TAMPA -- Whatever disappointment there was in the Bucs' locker room after a largely irrelevant 24-10 loss to the Redskins in Thursday's preseason finale, it disappeared at the mere mention of new Bucs guard Logan Mankins, the six-time Pro Bowler acquired Tuesday from the Patriots.
"A Logan Mankins, you can't even expect to get a guy like that," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "When you get a guy like that, it's like a dream come true. An All-Pro who can help you get better in practice, and your overall team gets better, on and off the field."
Mankins, 32, met teammates for the first time Thursday and watched the final preseason game, and he'll be quickly inserted in at left guard as the Bucs prepare for next weekend's season opener at home against Carolina. Another former Patriot, Bucs linebacker Dane Fletcher, was thrilled to be reunited with a leader from his New England teams.
"There's probably not a happier guy in this establishment, besides (general manager) Jason Licht, than me," said Fletcher, a teammate of Mankins the last four seasons. "I was happy. It's good for the team in every aspect. On the field, in the locker room, for morale, he's a great guy. It's good to get a guy like that in here."
For the Bucs, he'll be the fourth new starter on the offensive line, joining free-agent signees in left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith, as well as second-year pro Patrick Omameh, who likely steps up at right guard.
"I've been hearing about Mankins for years," Collins said. "He comes from an organization that's been winning for years, so he's bringing his winning mentality here. He's a hell of a player, and playing next to him is going to be an honor."
The lone returning starter is right tackle Demar Dotson, who met Mankins on Thursday and saw much of the same blue-collar approach the Bucs have across the offensive line, with a wealth of experience from nine straight 10-win Patriots teams.
"To bring in a guy who's played as many games as he had, coming from a good system in New England, he's not a big rah-rah guy, but he's a guy that gets the job done," Dotson said. "It's an upgrade at the guard spot without a question."
The Bucs lost a promising young tight end in Tim Wright, as well as a fourth-round pick in next year's draft, but players on both sides of the ball appreciate the significance of adding a leader like Mankins to a young locker room.
"He's a great player, a proven player in this league," linebacker Mason Foster said. "I think he'll definitely add leadership and help this team win some games. He's a cool guy, real down to earth and it seems like he's ready to work, so I'm excited. ... We've got a great GM and a great coach, and I think they're taking the right steps to make this team better."
Mankins' final game with the Patriots last week was against the same Panthers team he'll face in his Bucs debut -- he played 49 snaps against Carolina, leaving with New England up 20-0 on the way to a 405-yard offensive effort. Coach Lovie Smith said he doesn't anticipate any problems with him learning the offense enough in the next week to be ready for the Panthers.
"It won't be an issue," Smith said. "Logan will tell you it won't be an issue. That won't stop him from playing a great game, or learning our offense, our terminology and things like that. You can change the names, but he's seeing a lot of different looks, all the different looks and different blitzes. ... He should be OK."