Mayo emerging as veteran leader

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Now in his fourth season, Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo took a leadership role by coordinating player workouts during the NFL lockout.

While veteran nose tackle Vince Wilfork will be sure to keep the defensive line steady, there is little doubt that Mayo is now the field general of a young defensive unit taking the training camp practice fields in New England.

"It's a little strange," Mayo said of his developing role as a veteran leader. "It's my fourth year in the league. But at the same time I feel like I've learned enough over these past few years to really hand down some information to those guys, and that's what I'm going to try to do."

Mayo credits older players such as Wilfork, safety James Sanders, and defensive lineman Ty Warren for showing him the ropes of the defense.

"They're great. Not only do they know the defense, but they're grown men," Mayo said. "We're young, and those guys really show you how to be a man off the field as well."

This season, Mayo will be looking for "growth" out of a Patriots defense he now commands.

"Last year we were young," Mayo explained. "This year we have a lot of guys coming back that are in better shape, they understand the defense better, and they understand the 'Patriot way' better."

With an offseason devoid of developmental camps, Mayo's unit will need to hit the ground running this training camp in order to achieve such growth.

"It's going to be a crash course for everyone," Mayo said. "We've been out of football for so long. We're all going on this journey together."