Patriots LB Mayo likely out 6 weeks
FOXBOROUGH - Patriots coach Bill Belichick wasn’t ready to comment yesterday on the extent of the left knee injury that forced Jerod Mayo to leave Sunday’s win over the Raiders, but according to a league source the Pro Bowl linebacker likely will miss six weeks with a medial collateral ligament sprain.
“I saw him in there today,’’ Belichick said. “I’m not sure exactly where things are at. We’ll see where we are on Wednesday.’’
In the meantime, the Patriots will try to figure out how to fill the void. First they’ll have to account for Mayo’s play-calling. Then they’ll have to make up for his tackling (he’s led the team the past three seasons, including last season, when he put up 175). And one way or another they’ll have to replace his leadership; he has been a captain since 2009.
The Patriots Sunday replaced Mayo with Gary Guyton in their regular defense and rotated players (mainly Tracy White and Dane Fletcher) in for their sub packages.
“It wasn’t a Ferris wheel of guys,’’ said Belichick. “There was actually a plan there, believe it or not.’’
The question now is what plan Belichick will come up with now that it appears Mayo will be missing for more than a month. The division rival Jets come to Gillette Stadium Sunday.
“I don’t know the severity of his injury, but you just game plan for the worst and hope for the best,’’ Fletcher said. “Wherever they see me fit is where I’ll be in this game.’’
When Mayo went down in the second quarter, Guyton assumed the lion’s share of his responsibilities, including wearing the green dot that indicates the player who is in radio communication with the coaches.
It’s a position Guyton has been in before. Two years ago, when Mayo sprained the MCL in his right knee, Guyton had to take on his role. They came into the league together in 2008 and sit by each other in the locker room, and the on-the-field effects are apparent.
“They’re very close, personally, and play well next to each other,’’ Belichick said. “They have great communication and both guys kind of can do what the other one does. They flip assignments and positions regularly on the defense just to change up the looks, just to have a different guy doing it . . . to make the offense read it differently.
“I think Gary has good experience and he knows all the positions . . . any inside linebacker part of the defense, regardless of what our front is and so forth, he’s pretty adept and he’s a real sharp guy.’’
Play-calling is something Belichick said the team works on in every practice, switching who wears the green dot on occasion. In the preseason, the responsibilities fell on Fletcher.
“You have that sense of the defense is somewhat on your shoulders now,’’ Fletcher said. “So with whatever’s going on with our defense right now, everybody’s got to help as much as possible.’’
Fletcher, who came in last year as a converted defensive lineman and made most of his contributions on special teams, started this season at inside linebacker and Belichick said the improvement has been dramatic.
“He’s way ahead of where he was last year,’’ Belichick said. “There’s just really no comparison. He got a good year of experience and he definitely built on that. He’s a smart guy, works hard, he’s in good condition, he’s a good athlete, runs well, and he’s physical.’’
The Patriots defense is still last in total yards allowed (1,910). The Raiders rang up 504. With or without Mayo, those numbers are alarming.
“As a defense you don’t like to see that stat,’’ Fletcher said. “You’ve got to improve on that, big time. Being 3-1 definitely helps, but we’re not satisfied as a defense.’’
If push comes to shove, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork is an option - all 325 pounds of him. He has picked off two passes, Sunday dropping back into coverage and stealing one from Jason Campbell.
“If he gets his hands on the ball, he’s like a vacuum cleaner,’’ Belichick said. “Just sucks it right in.’’
The coach grinned at the thought of it.
“Put him back there as a linebacker?’’ Belichick said. “Yeah, maybe. I’m sure he’d have fun with that.’’
Shalise Manza Young of the Globe Staff contributed to this report; Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.