Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo was a guest on SiriusXM NFL Radio on Thursday, speaking with hosts Bruce Murray and Rich Gannon on "The Blitz."
Mayo, one of the team’s captains, was asked about linebacker Brandon Spikes’ absence from the Patriots’ voluntary organized team activities: Should Spikes be there, and what kind of message does it send when the other 89 players on the 90-man roster are working hard together?
“You know, who am I to say if he [should be] here or shouldn’t be here?” Mayo responded. “All I can say is that we’re going out each and every day with the guys that are here, and guys are doing a good job stepping in. That’s something that’s between him and the organization. Whatever happens with that happens.”
Dane Fletcher (4th year) and Mike Rivera (2nd year) have seen the biggest uptick in repetitions at middle linebacker with Spikes’ absence.
Mayo touched on the defense potentially generating momentum because of the continuity of having almost its entire starting unit returning.
“Any time you look at a good defense throughout the year, you always had a core group of guys that had been together for a long time. Hopefully we can get that here,” Mayo answered. “Hopefully we can get all the guys here and play with each other for a long time – go through this camp, go through training camp, and build that camaraderie and become a good defense."
Some of the other notable soundbites from Mayo:
Cornerback Aqib Talib’s presence and importance to the defense. “Aqib has come in and done an excellent job for us. He’s a football player and that’s what I respect most. He enjoys playing the game. He enjoys going out and competing. We were fortunate to see him on the other side of the ball in training camp last year [in joint practices with the Buccaneers], and we were going at it a little bit, but he’s a football player and a competitor and I’m glad he’s on this side [now].”
Devin McCourty and his position change from cornerback to safety. “Devin has been all over the place. He’s a team player, wherever the coaches want him to go he’s going to go. He’s very versatile. He’s an [outside] corner, can play in the slot, he can play safety, but most of all I think the coaches see him as a smart player. He helps with the adjustment and communication and he’s a good guy to have back there who can see the entire field.”
The addition of veteran safety Adrian Wilson. “I think it’s just intimidation. Have you seen [him]? Let me tell you, he’s come in and worked hard. Hopefully he’s a good addition for us. We’ll see what happens throughout training camp and throughout the season.”
The importance of the offseason program and OTAs in building a foundation. "This is stage one. We talk about getting stronger in the weight room and doing all those drills, which is good and which is nice, but at the end of the day you have to be able to translate that over to the field. Being able to get these young guys straight from college, or these free-agent acquisitions, it's always huge to get on the field with these guys, learn how they talk and how they communicate, get comfortable with these guys on the field, and go out there and play football."
What it’s like playing for Bill Belichick. “I love playing here, I love playing for Coach Bill. He’s a football guy and I’m a football guy. I enjoy playing the game. He’s a competitor, always wants to win, and is always trying to get an edge. I’m the same way.”
Looking back on 2012 and areas in which the defense must improve. “It changed throughout the season, but obviously we need to improve on getting off the field on third down [22nd in NFL, opponents converted 40 percent of the time]. We did a good job as far as turnovers at points during the season; that’s what saved us. We have to get off the field on third down and improve our pass defense.”
On if the Patriots will be able to generate enough pressure off the edge. “I hope so. We have a lot of guys who are very versatile and can do a lot of different things. We’re very multiple. We do a lot of different things, no matter what the front is, no matter who is on the field, hopefully they can get after the passer. If they don’t, on the back end, we have to cover. It’s not just one person or one group.”
On generating momentum heading into 2013. “We have a lot of talented guys on this team, but right now, we’re taking it one day at a time, trying to get better, and that’s what these OTAs are all about – getting these young guys in, the new pieces to the puzzle. … This team this year will be totally different from the team last year, so you can’t say ‘last year’ and think ‘we’re going to be good.’ We’re working hard, the young guys are working hard, and we’re trying to get this thing together.”