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Jerod Mayo: No worries about ‘rookie wall’ with this group of first-year players

Posted By Christopher Price On November 20, 2012 @ 12:32 pm In General | No Comments

Jerod Mayo leads the Patriots in tackles with 126. (AP)

FOXBORO — As a guy who played a lot of football in his first year in the NFL, linebacker Jerod Mayo knows all about the idea of the rookie wall.

Mayo played 881 snaps as a rookie in 2008 (according to Pro Football Focus), the highest total on a defense filled with veterans like Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi. He ended up winning the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

So when you ask him about the idea of fighting through a rookie wall — the idea that first-year players struggle with the longer NFL season — you can understand why he might be dismissive of the entire idea.

“I think these guys know,” Mayo said of New England’s rookie class. “These guys have old souls — like Chandler [Jones], he looks like an old man. He does a lot of ice tubs and things like that. Dont’a [Hightower], he’s doing well. We don’t really believe in the rookie wall that everyone talks about. We just talk about taking it one day at a time, and I think if you look at it that way and not try to look ahead at the schedule, you’ll be OK.”

Jones and Hightower remain integral parts of a Patriots’ defense that has started to take steps “in the right direction,” according to the veteran linebacker.

“But at the same time, we didn’t start the game like we wanted to. We haven’t put together four quarters in a game. We’re still striving to do that. [There’s] a lot of work to do,” Mayo said before practice on Tuesday. “We liked the way we finished the game, as well as the fact that we had two defensive touchdowns. That’s always good. Something to build on.

“Obviously, we’re a work in progress. We’re a work in progress. We have to take in one game at a time, day at a time. Like I said earlier, the consistency has to be there. We have to start games strong and finish strong.”

The Patriots will hit the road for a Thanksgiving night with the Jets. It’ll be the second time around for New England and New York this year — the Patriots eked out a dramatic 29-26 overtime win against the Jets on Oct. 21. It’s a dual challenge for New England, which not only faces a road test against a divisional rival, it’ll also come on a short week.

“It was a tough game,” said Mayo when asked about the first game against the Jets. “It came down to last couple of minutes — they’re a tough team. They always play us tough. A division team. They know us and we know them. It’ll be a tough battle.”

Cramming a week’s worth of work into four days is also a test, even against a familiar foe like Rex Ryan and New York.

“There’s a lot of film study in a short time. After that game we just played, it was really a Wednesday in our world. It’s tough, but at the same time, they’re in the same predicament we’re in,” he said. “[Familiarity] does help. But teams change. Teams change over a couple of weeks as far as scheme is concerned, so you have to do a lot of film study and a lot of studying up on things that they’re doing.

“Scheme wise, they’re doing different things. They’re healthier than the last time we played them. They have all their weapons. I don’t think they have any injuries, to be honest with you. They’re doing a lot of things well.”

With a win, the Patriots have an opportunity to put a hammerlock on the division — a victory would give them an 8-3 record and at least a three-game lead with five games to play.

“Obviously, you look at this as a chance to separate yourself from the rest of the pack,” Mayo said. “We handled the Bills, and now, this is a big game for us to kind of distance ourselves from the rest of the pack.”


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