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Jerod Mayo confident ‘next man up’ will fill void of Vince Wilfork

10.01.13 at 10:18 am ET
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Jerod Mayo is ready to step up and accept the mantle of leadership on defense. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Jerod Mayo is ready to step up and accept the mantle of leadership on defense. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

With Vince Wilfork now likely gone for the season, the mantle of leadership on the defense moves to the broad shoulders of linebacker Jerod Mayo.

The Patriots, like any football team, always adopt the mantra of “next man up” when a player goes down, even a proven star player as is the case with Wilfork. That won’t change now as Mayo – co-captain of the defense – pointed out.

“We always talk about next man up. We have a lot of talented guys on our team,” Mayo said. “I think Vince got hurt in the first quarter [Sunday] and guys really stepped up and played well for us. We ended up getting the victory which is always is a good thing. That’s our mentality, is the next man up and I’m sure – we have a lot of great people, great players, great leaders in the organization in general so I know I expect that to continue on.”

“Obviously, Vince is a huge asset for our team, not only on the field but off the field. He’s a great leader, he demands double teams in the run game and he also coordinates some of the rushes in the pass game, so a great asset for this defense.”

Actually, in the Patriots case, it’s the next men up.

The first two candidates are Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, both of whom saw action on Sunday night, along with Tommy Kelly inside. Mayo believes both can definitely hold their own.

“Definitely. Those guys practice hard, they’re always in the film room, the coaches always have them ready to go. I think that’s what it’s all about, is preparation during the week and those guys prepare well and they came in to the game and did some good things. Obviously we still have a lot of work to do and gelling together to get that chemistry but that comes with time. But last night was a good night for them.”

As for the possible return of Richard Seymour, don’t expect No. 93 to be making a comeback to New England, as was reported on Monday.

Clearly, Sunday night went beyond football for the Patriots. It was evident from the moment Tom Brady came over to check on Wilfork that his teammates felt for him. There was a game to be won but then after, their thoughts turned to the man who has anchored the middle of the line since 2004.

“Obviously Vince has been a staple for a long time. He rarely goes out with injuries so it was very shocking and surprising to see my friend go down like that. Hopefully he’s OK; we’ll see what happens. But it definitely caught me off-guard a little bit, because I’m used to always having him in there with me.

“I spoke with him after the game. He’s in good spirits and we’ll see what happens.”

Here is the remainder of Jerod Mayo’s conference call with reporters:

Q: What’s the takeaway Sunday night? You started strong but the fourth quarter didn’t go quite as planned. Defensively, how would you assess the overall effort Sunday night?

JM: Right, like you said, we came out, started strong, made some big red area stops. We obviously didn’t finish the game [the way] we wanted to. It’s hard to win games in this league, especially against a good offense like Atlanta. We’ll take it and we’ll look at the film and make corrections and move on and get ready for a good team next week.

Q: How big of an impact has Tommy Kelly had on this team?

JM: Tommy has been great. In the locker room, he’s been great. In the film room, he brings that veteran knowledge; the things you learn while playing the game, he brings it to the young guys. I’m learning from him on the field. Obviously he’s a great interior pass rusher and can also play the run. He’s a big body in there, just a great complement for our front.

Q: How good has Aqib Talib been for this defense?

JM: He’s been huge. Anytime you can kind of cancel out a guy, it’s always huge for the defense. Aqib is going out and [has] made big plays for us as well, with the interceptions and the big pass breakups late in the game. Last night that breakup in the end zone was huge for us; won us the game. He’s been great for us.

Q: If a guy like Vince Wilfork goes down, one of the key players in the defense, does the defense change schematically?

JM: To be honest with you, I’m not sure. That’s up to Coach [Bill] Belichick and Matty P [Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia]. We have guys that can do pretty much the same things, but hopefully it’s at a high level. We’ll just have to see. The defense changes every week anyway, we’re a game plan defense – different fronts, different schemes – we change every week. We’ll just have to see what happens.

Read More: Chris Jones, Jerod Mayo, Joe Vellano, New England Patriots
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