Patriots defense not planning a pity party after losing Jerod Mayo
|10.16.13 at 2:30 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Despite the fact that they’ve now lost two of their most indispensable defensive leaders in Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo to season-ending injuries, the Patriots’ defense isn’t going to spend a lot of time sitting around feeling sorry for themselves.
“I think the good thing here is that we have guys who prepare hard and as if they were starting,” said defensive back Devin McCourty, who is now the senior member of the New England defense in terms of games played in a Patriots uniform. “Now, they get the opportunity. Everywhere outside this locker room, guys will be talking about our loss. I think we have some guys in here who are excited about their opportunity. It sucks, because you never want to lose a player, but there are some guys who are excited to get out there and play more.”
Mayo was the acknowledged leader of the linebackers, but with him on the shelf for the rest of the season, some of those leadership responsibilities will shift to second-year Dont’a Hightower. He will likely be the one with the green dot on the back of his helmet — the player with the responsibility of receiving the defensive plays calls from the sideline and relaying them to his teammates. It’s a sizable responsibility, one Hightower takes seriously.
“I look forward to it,” he said after practice on Wednesday. “I talked to [defensive coordinator Matt Patricia], I talked to [linebackers coach Pepper Johnson] about it, so it’s definitely something that I knew down the road that if something ever happened, I knew that I would have to step up and do it. I’m not nervous about it, it’s something that I’ve done before — maybe not in the NFL, but I’ve done it before, so everybody’s behind me and they support me, so it’s all I can ask for.”
One of the interesting things is that both Mayo and Wilfork are defensive captains, and have been powerful voices when it comes to providing leadership in the locker room. Now, it’ll be on a variety of players to step up and offer guidance.
“For me, I think of it as Mayo and Vince are still our captains, and just stepping in and filling a title or a role, but just to keep doing what I’ve been doing. Keep being a leader on the defense,’ McCourty said. “To me, those two will be the captains — they were voted captains earlier this season. My job now is when guys get hurt and they can’t be around, guys have to step up. I’ve been appointed one of those guys to step up, but it’s no different — guys on defense have to step up. Guys like Steve Gregory, who has played a lot of football here already. [Brandon] Spikes, a guy who is a fourth year player as well. We all have to step up and kind of be group captains now. You can’t replace two guys who have already been voted captains.”
“We [lost] a bunch of key guys, with Vince and Mayo and [Tommy Kelly] and all the other guys that are banged up,” Hightower said. “But it’s football. It’s all expected — one guy down, another guy comes up. I feel like everybody that’s here is going to help us win. As long as we communicate and execute the game plan, we’ll be fine.”