FOXBOROUGH ó More than six months ago, Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo was placed on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, wiping out his season after only six games.
Despite the time off and the rehab, Mayo was cautious when he spoke to reporters Tuesday about his abilities, saying repeatedly that he was taking things one day at a time.
"Every day I feel like Iím getting stronger, getting better," Mayo said. "But once again, I wonít know until I get out there and start really playing the game of football. If it was flag football, it would be cool."
He's been running (chasing his kids) and working with the team as apart of the Patriots' offseason workout program. But there are benchmarks he has to hit.
"OTAs, training camp, games, I think theyíre all different milestones that you have to get to, to really gain that confidence with the injury," he said.
Between Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and even Rob Gronkowski for a time, the number of the team's core players sitting on the shelf at the same time in 2013 was a little unsettling. But they apparently weren't wallowing in their pain. At least not all the time. And definitely not when they were together.
"Definitely those guys were hurt just like I was," he said. "We would even watch the games sometimes together. It was tough. We would be on the sideline trying to support the guys. That was one of the positives. We still had that camaraderie even though we were off the field."
Mayo will come back in 2014 with no definitive timetable for contact drills. He's patiently waiting to see how that'll feel. But he'll be returning as a veteran and captain on a team that is now exploding with talent, including the acquisitions of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, as well as defensive end Will Smith. But that just gives Mayo one more reason to be cautious.
"Itís always good when you can add talented football players and people who love the game," he said. "We really donít know yet. We havenít been out on the field and gelled together. Obviously there have been talented teams that havenít played well together. So weíll have to wait and see and take it one day at a time.
"Just as a player and as a fan of football, you kind of notice things like that, these teams, these dream teams that donít pan out the way that you think they will," Mayo continued. "Or a player will try and go to a different scheme and it just doesnít fit right. It just doesnít work out right. So itís all about taking it one day at a time, building a camaraderie, going out there in training camp, going out there in 7-on-7s, these workouts together, and just getting on the same page."
More from Mayo:
On what he'll miss in losing linebacker Brandon Spikes: "I guess all the jokes in the meetings. I donít know. Brandon is a great player. Obviously heís not with us anymore. He brought a physicality to the game thatís kind of unprecedented as far as in the run game. You know heís a good player but at the end of the day, heís not a Patriot right now. Weíre gonna work with the guys in our room."
On losing Spikes' toughness and physicality: "I think we have a lot of talented guys in the room and a lot of talented guys in the front seven. So I think weíll be fine."
On the NFL draft: "To be honest with you, I donít even really pay attention. The guys that are gonna be here, the guys that coach [Bill] Belichick and the Kraft family chooses to select, when they get here, Iíll let you know how they are then."
On Jamie Collins: "Jamie is a great athlete. He does a lot of different things. He can cover, he can blitz, he can tackle. Like you said, heís a very versatile player who can do a lot of different things. Obviously heís out here working hard, trying to get better. At the end of the day, weíre a unit. Weíre a linebacker unit, we donít really talk about individual things. Weíre trying to put the best linebacker unit on the field."