FOXBOROUGH -- Now in his fifth season, defensive captain Jerod Mayo is one of the "old guys" on the Patriots defense. As a veteran and anchor on the team's defense, someone who has started 57 of a possible 64 regular season games since he was drafted in 2008, he is expected to lead. The 26-year old linebacker prefers to let his work ethic on the field set an example.
"I try to go in and lead by example," said Mayo after the team's third open OTA session. "This is, what, my fifth year. And I'm one of the old guys on this side of the ball. We have great coaches who pretty much handle all that [teaching]. Coach [Matt] Patricia, Coach [Bill] Belichick, Coach [Pepper] Johnson, all those guys really take control of the classroom and make sure everyone understands."
With 16 newcomers to the team's defense, the buzz on the Patriots is that they're revamping, particularly after a season in which the defense ranked 31st in the NFL. But with so many new faces on the team comes a high learning curve. The team now has 11 linebackers on its roster, four of whom are newcomers. Most notable are free-agent signee Trevor Scott and rookie draft pick Dont'a Hightower. Those two are projected to contribute to the team immediately.
"It's always exciting when we get guys on our side of the ball," Mayo said. "I always love new faces, new talent. It's like different tools you get to work with and those guys are good players.
"There is a learning curve, but those guys are coming in each and every day, worked hard in the classroom and on the field," Mayo said. "Hopefully when the season comes they'll be ready to go."
Mayo said Hightower was particularly adept in the classroom.
"Fortunately, the guys that have come in are football guys," Mayo said. "They know the game. Dont'a came in and wanted to watch some film. We watched film together. He understands everything I'm trying to say. So that's the fortunate thing about that, having guys like that who are true football guys."
As far as OTAs, Mayo has welcomed the workouts, seeing them as an opportunity for the team to get quality repetitions.
"We try to practice just as hard now without pads as we do with pads. Even though we're not actually hitting each other, we're out there going hard. We're out there being safe but at the same time trying to get those looks and making sure everyone is on the same page, especially when people get tired."