When Jerod Mayo first arrived with the Patriots, Bill Belichick told him there were three levels of NFL football. The preseason, the regular season, and the playoffs presented different challenges, demanded their own performance and intensity. Mayo has only experienced the first two, but that will change Sunday.
“I don’t really know what to expect," Mayo said. "I just know how to play football, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
One of the consequences of missing the playoffs last season is coming to bear right now. Last year's rookies are now playoff rookies. Of the many Patriots making their playoff debuts, Mayo may face the largest burden. In 2007, Tedy Bruschi, who had 19 games of playoff experience entering the postseason, called the defensive plays. On Sunday, it will be Mayo and his zero playoff games.
“The biggest game I’ve ever played in was the SEC Championship or something like that," Mayo said. "This is a huge game."
You can tell that his teammates believe the game won't be too big for Mayo. He is often praised for his uncommon maturity as a second-year player. Early in his Patriots tenure, 11-year veteran Fred Taylor sensed Mayo's leadership.
"When it’s all said and done, I’ll probably be one of his No. 1 fans," Taylor said. "He’s a hell of a person first. Of course, you can see what he does on the field. But he puts in the work. It’s no secret why he’s as good as he is. He studies. He’s the quarterback for that side of the ball. Everything he’s gotten to this point, he deserves it."
Today, Mayo cut his group interview session after 1 minutes 35 seconds. He said he had some film to study. His preparation, he feels, will make up for his inexperience Sunday.
"I feel like I’ve worked hard all year," Mayo said. "I’m approaching this game the same way. There’s a lot more media hype and things like that. At the end of the day, it's the same game."