Jerod Mayo talks to reporters. (AP)
FOXBOROUGH -- Teammates of linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who announced his retirement today, said that they are ready to take the torch from Bruschi, who is symbolic of this era of Patriots' success and continue on his and the team's legacy.
Bruschi's most direct standard-bearer is linebacker Jerod Mayo. Mayo said Bruschi, who has served as Mayo's mentor, called him yesterday to tell him he was retiring.
"It really hurt me, but I just let him know how much he meant to me as far as being a player and a person," said Mayo.
Mayo said he is grateful for all that Bruschi taught him in their season-plus together.
"I came in hearing all horror stories about rookies coming in and things like that, but Tedy Bruschi broke all those stories and things like that," said Mayo. "He's a great guy. He kind of took me under his wing when I first came here. He told me that one day he would pass the torch on to me and the rest of the team and I guess today is that day."
Mayo said it will take a group effort to fill the leadership void left by Bruschi's retirement. Nose tackle Vince Wilfork agreed that it shouldn't fall to any one player.
"Leadership was always a key with that guy," said Wilfork. "You knew exactly what you had when you were on the field. We have a bunch of guys around here. It's going to be tough, but at the same time I think we have enough veterans on this team that that we can all rally together and try to put together what those guys like Troy Brown and Tedy started. Now, they're basically passing it to us to keep it rolling. I think that with the group of guys we have in here we'll continue."
Wilfork, a teammate of Bruschi's since 2004, said that Bruschi was a player the defense could always rely on to make a big play in a big spot.
"Whenever we needed a play that was one of the guys that he had the caliber that he could go out and pull one off for us," said Wilfork. "All that stuff is going to be missed, so now we're going to have to pick up the slack. Like I said he passed the torch to us, so we have to run with it."
Wilfork said he was glad to see Bruschi go out on his own terms.
"He played the game the way it needed to be played and I respect him for that and I'm glad he's going out basically on top," said Wilfork. He has a beautiful family. He will enjoy them. I just saw him and said, 'Congrats and don't be calling me this offseason if you want to play golf because you might be a scratch golfer by the end.' He's in high spirits and nothing but big-time respect for him as a person and as one of his teammates, he'll really be missed around here."
Not a Bruschi teammate, but Senator John Kerry released a statement on the Patriots linebacker today:
"Tedy Bruschi was the heart and soul of the New England Patriots, a leader, a motivator and a role model. You bet his lasting legacy is three Super Bowls rings, over a thousand tackles, 30 sacks, 12 interceptions and even four touchdowns, but it's also the courage and determination he mustered to return to the field after a stroke and leverage his own special credibility to push Washington to invest in education and research to treat and prevent strokes,” said Kerry. “The Patriots helmet he signed for me is a treasure in my office, but more important is the example he set to turn adversity into activism."