Patriots LB Jerod Mayo making progress in return to football

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- So far, so good with veteran New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo and his return to playing football after two injury-shortened seasons.

"Jerod's made progress day by day; nobody works harder than Jerod does," coach Bill Belichick said Monday. "We've asked him to do a little more, either by volume/the amount of work he does, or we've increased the intensity of it in the two-and-a-half weeks we've been in training camp, and I think he's handled all those well."

Mayo, whose 2014 season ended in October due to a torn patellar tendon and who tore a pectoral muscle in October 2013 to land on injured reserve that year, didn't play in the preseason opener against the Packers. But he hasn't missed a practice and his influence on the team remains strong.

"I think everybody looks up to Jerod," Belichick said. "He was a captain from his second year on, like Devin [McCourty]. It's a little bit unusual to see players be a captain their second year; I think that takes a special person to earn that much respect in a short period of time. Jerod did that. Devin did that. It's not really that long a list."

A few other nuggets from Belichick:

  • The team has an afternoon practice and it's hot and humid, with temperatures around 90 degrees and about 50 percent humidity. "It's hot," Belichick said. "It's what we need."

  • Working in the steamy weather is good for conditioning, with Belichick making the point conditioning is different for players depending on position. He compared linemen to boxers, who lean in and do a lot of pushing against other heavy bodies, and how that's different from a player who might do more running. "But they're all important," he said.

  • Belichick credited fourth-year linebacker Jonathan Freeny with "having a real good offseason in terms of his physical conditioning and development and also learning our defense and the communication and so forth."

  • On reserve second-year linebacker James Morris, Belichick credited his smarts and understanding of the defense. The biggest key for him has been physical development/playing after spending last season on injured reserve. "He's gotten a lot of reps, taken a lot of snaps," he said, adding that "he's progressed well." Belichick said he thinks Morris and Freeny can help the team "defensively and in the kicking game and have some versatility." Belichick called it good competition and depth at linebacker.

  • On acquiring guard Ryan Groy from the Bears, Belichick cited his experience (three career starts) and how he'll add to the competition on the interior of the line, as well as depth. In essence, the feeling was he'll be more competitive at that spot than rookie linebacker Matthew Wells was going to be at his spot, hence the trade.

  • Belichick hinted that the majority of rehabilitating players won't travel to joint practices. "I don't think anybody would recommend a lot of travel for somebody rehabbing from injury. I don't think that's the top of the [list of] 'here's how you get better quick; travel, jump on a couple planes, fly around the country.' That's generally not part of the prescribed rehabilitation."

  • On bringing back defensive tackle Casey Walker, who signed Friday, Belichick said, "We liked working with him last year and now we have another opportunity to do that. So we'll see how that goes."