FOXBOROUGH — The first two days of training camp are much like the three days of minicamp.
There's the drills, the conditioning, the classwork, the installation of plays, and the growing familiarity with new players and new coaches. It's practically the same thing we saw a month ago.
So for a veteran like Jerod Mayo, who played only six games last season after tearing his pectoral muscle, getting through the first couple of days can be viewed as an extension of the past two months of organized team activities and minicamp, an annoying tease of what's to come when the players put the pads on Saturday.
"Definitely," he said. "You can only do so much out here with no pads on. Saturday will be a good day but obviously we have some work to do tomorrow putting some plays in. [But] Saturday will be fun."
That's right, Mayo is beating the due-diligence and hard-work-every-day drum, one that was pounded repeatedly by Patriots players and coaches on Thursday after the team's first training camp practice. But this time of year obviously brings more excitement as camp signals the beginning of the season. With that excitement comes the questions about each position group, like how the linebackers group has evolved, and how Mayo will fill in for Brandon Spikes, who signed with the Buffalo Bills in free agency. And, of course, how Mayo's return has affected the rest of the team.
"Every year is a different team, so you have to do that every training camp," Mayo said. "Obviously we had a lot of injuries last year but it’s all about this year and the guys that we have now. It’s no different than any other year."
Mayo's got Dont'a Hightower on his strong side and he's got Jamie Collins on his weak side, both of whom proved to be ready to take their game to the next level at the end of the 2013 season. The Patriots added outside linebacker James Anderson in the offseason, a talented veteran who has experience playing on all three days over his career. And Anderson is particularly suited to help on passing downs.
"[Anderson's] a cool guy; obviously he’s a veteran and has played a lot of football in this league so I can learn a lot from him," Mayo said. "He comes to work every day and studies well in the classroom."
With the main characters set, the Patriots still have to figure out who will be the primary backups. Second-year middle 'backer Steve Beauharnais figures into the mix, but the remaining cast is murky. None of that can be deciphered until the pads come on. And it's not like the players know any better.
"At this point we’ve only had one day of practice so we really don’t know what we’re capable of," Mayo said. "We are taking it one day at a time and continuing to work towards our goal."
Sound familiar? That tune will change on Saturday.