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Mayo has a sprained MCL

Reports differ on injury’s timetable

By Monique Walker and Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / September 16, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo suffered a sprained medial collateral knee ligament in Monday night’s dramatic victory over the Bills, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the injury.

One source said Mayo is expected to be out 6-8 weeks with the Grade 3 MCL sprain, but the other source said the timetable is “not that bad’’ and the 2008 Defensive Rookie of the Year could return sooner.

Mayo was injured in the first quarter tackling Bills tailback Fred Jackson at the end of a 16-yard run. Mayo limped around before falling to the turf, where he received attention before walking off under his own power. He did not return.

In a conference call yesterday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if Mayo’s injury could be season-ending. “I don’t think that’s what it is,’’ he said.

That was as much information as Belichick would reveal a day after the Patriots came back to defeat the Bills, 25-24. The coach said the next Mayo update would come on today’s injury report.

For a restructured defense looking to build communication and chemistry, losing Mayo is tough. Gary Guyton and Adalius Thomas handled the inside linebacking duties after Mayo went out.

Against Buffalo’s no-huddle offense, there were shoddy moments for the Patriots defense.

“There’s certainly some plays out there that - no matter what the call is, no matter who’s in the game - we certainly could play them better,’’ Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “Then again, there are some guys playing in positions that they hadn’t played in that I thought - at certain times - they did play well.’’

By now, the Patriots defense doesn’t need a reminder of who is missing. In the days leading up to Monday night’s opener, players were asked how they would adjust without Rodney Harrison (retirement), Tedy Bruschi (retirement), and Richard Seymour (trade to Oakland).

Assessing the defense’s overall performance can be a challenge, according to Pees, but he just looks to the final result.

With 50 seconds to play, the Bills took over on their 21-yard line, trailing by a point. Derrick Burgess and Tully Banta-Cain each came up with sacks on the drive that helped thwart Buffalo.

“We did what we needed to do at the end of the game and made some plays. That was the difference in the game,’’ Pees said.

Now Pees turns his attention to the Jets and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, who led his club to a 24-7 victory against Houston Sunday. Sanchez completed 18 of 31 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception.

“Obviously, I think they’re very productive on offense, especially at quarterback, the guy who’s pulling the trigger,’’ Pees said. “They have a lot of weapons: [Thomas] Jones, [Leon] Washington, [Dustin] Keller, [Jerricho] Cotchery. I mean, there are an awful lot of weapons out there. They’re a good offensive line. Those guys are all back and they’ve played well together. I think they’re doing a good job with [Sanchez] asking him to do what he can do. He seemed to be very poised for his first start.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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