Leaders on defense get to work

FOXBOROUGH, Mass -- The Patriots have added a number of new faces to their defense this offseason, but three pillars of stability return, albeit one has earned a new title.

First-year defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who works closely with captains Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo, expressed excitement about the beginning of training camp.

“It’s obviously good to get going,” he said after Thursday’s opening practice. “Obviously we’ve got a lot of work to do, and good to have everybody back and just trying to get better every day. Obviously, always good to be out here practicing.”

Wilfork, who deflected questions about last season and predictions about this upcoming year, choosing instead to focus on the immediate task at hand, still has excitement about return to training camp in his ninth NFL season.

“You’re always excited to come back and start playing this game. It’s always been a dream come true to play this game, so every year fortunately that you live in it, it comes around, I’m happy about it.”

Meanwhile, Mayo, 26, has already achieved elder statesman status amongst the Patriots linebacker (in terms of number of years in the system), but he doesn’t feel Father Time has taken a toll on him yet.

“To be honest with you, I still feel young,” Mayo continued. “Coach Belichick has some type of way making me still feel like a little guy. I am one of the older guys, but I just kind of try to lead by example.”

Part of leading by example for Mayo means conveying what he describes as the Patriot Way to rookies, “To come out and work hard. I guess you want to call it the Patriot Way. Just come out here, listen to the coaches, and just try to apply everything they teach you in the classroom.”

Like Wilfork, Mayo didn’t offer scouting reports on the Patriots’ first round draft choices, defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont'a Hightower, but did stress that versatility along the front seven is a benefit for his defense.

“I think it’s good to have the versatility up front,” he said. “You can show so many different looks, guys playing different positions. You can change it up each and every week, I think that poses a threat to a lot of offenses.”