At this time last year, Tedy Bruschi was a primary leader on the Patriots defense. This week, in an indirect way, he may have passed those duties along to Jerod Mayo, the second-year middle linebacker.
On Monday as an ESPN analyst, Bruschi criticized Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on fourth and 2 from his own 28 because, as a former defensive player, it would have irritated him. Speaking to reporters today, Mayo offered the strongest rebuke yet a Patriots player of the sentiment Bruschi, more than anyone, championed.
"We looked at it as a challenge," Mayo said. "People say that it was a lack of confidence in us but we looked at it as a challenge and we looked at it as coach having enough confidence in us to give us a short field. Unfortunately we were unable to step up to the challenge and get the job done."
When asked directly about Bruschi's comments, Mayo was deferential to his former teammate but did not back down from challenging him.
"I have the ultimate respect for Tedy and everything he's done for this organization, but he's not in this locker room at this point in time so he doesn't know the feeling that this defense or this team has," Mayo said. "We still have our confidence, we still have our swagger and we're gonna go out Sunday and show the media I guess."
With Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, and Rodney Harrison departed, the Patriots defense had a leadership void. Mayo showed today he is willing to speak for his teammates and fill it.
"Anytime you play a divisional game like this, it's huge," Mayo said. "I was unable to play in the last game so this will be my first game back against these guys and hopefully it will be a good one."
And according to Mayo, he'll be leading a motivated defense this week.
"Anytime you give up 35 points in a game you try to come back strong the next game," Mayo said. "And hopefully we do that this week."