FOXBOROUGH -- Bill Belichick addressed the return of linebacker Jerod Mayo to today's practice. Mayo had been out since he suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee in the season opener against Buffalo Sept. 14.
Asked if it was good to have Mayo back, Belichick replied, "Yeah, it was. It was a good lift for everybody to see him back out there. So it was good to have him in uniform.''
While Belichick declined to discuss Mayo's progress, or his status for Sunday's game against the Ravens at Gillette Stadium, saying, ``He's working hard. He's working hard," the linebacker was listed as doubtful later in the afternoon on the team's injury report. That means the Patriots believe there is at least a 75 percent he won't play.
However, nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who practiced today for the first time this week after spraining his left ankle against Atlanta last Sunday, was listed as questionable (50/50) for Sunday's game.
During practice, the Patriots went about half-speed through special teams and Mayo participated on kickoff coverage. He was wearing baggy sweatpants, but there appeared to be a bulging outline of a brace underneath them on the right knee.
When Mayo was first injured 18 days ago, it was initially thought he would be out 6 to 8 weeks, but sources with knowledge of the injury told the Globe Mayo could be back sooner. Asked yesterday if he was impressed with how hard Mayo worked to return to practice, Belichick said, ``Jerod's always worked hard. He's worked hard from the day he's been here. He's the first guy in the building and the last one to leave kind-of-guy. And he's working the whole time, too. He's not in here spending half the day playing dominoes and that stuff.
``He works hard,'' Belichick said. ``He's here with a purpose and he gets a lot done. As I said, he comes in early and he stays late...He's a hard-working player and I have a lot of respect for Jerod, everybody does.''
Belichick didn't rule Mayo in or out for Sunday in his comments.
Vince Wilfork also returned to practice after missing the first two days nursing a sprained left ankle suffered in last Sunday's game against the Falcons. It was the first time this week everybody was present for the media-access portion of practice. Belichick said there would likely be a few game-time decisions on some players who were limited in their participation this week.
``Guys that maybe didn't practice one of the days earlier in the week, or both of them, and then they go out there today and that's good,'' Belichick said. ``We'll see where they're at tomorrow and make a call on that on Sunday. Sometimes after they go out and do something today, they realize tomorrow, Sunday, it really doesn't improve much and they're just not ready to go. Other guys it's the start of further healing and by Sunday they're ready to go.
``Truly, the term `questionable' that's what it is; it doesn't really say where they're going to be tomorrow or the next day.''
Belichick provided a window into the considerations that go into making the decision as to whether a player that is a game-time decision can go or not. Belichick said each case and each player is different and that sometimes you can live with a limited player and sometimes it's just not right for the player or the team.
"If the player is cleared by the medical staff that he can play, then it becomes a coaching decision as to even though he is less than 100 percent he can still play," said Belichick. "I'm sure you come to work on days when you're less than 100 percent, but you still go to work. Well, that's football. There are days when you play at less 100 percent, but you can still play. There are other days that you can't go to work and there are other days you can't play."