Mayo happy to be with 'football guys'

Mayo happy to be with 'football guys'

By Tom E. Curran

FOXBORO - The Patriots have brought in a ton of new personnel this offseason - free agents like Trevor Scott, Jonathan Fanene, Steve Gregory and a fleet of draft picks.

Jerod Mayo said Thursday that he likes the vibe he's getting from them.

Speaking of rookie first-rounder Dont'a Hightower, Mayo said, "He came in and wanted to watch film; we watched film together. He understands everything Im trying to say. Thats the fortunate thing about that having guys who are true football guys."

The Patriots defense was shoddy at the start of 2011 and gradually progressed to decent. They next stop, one presumes, would be "good." Mayo isn't entertaining those questions right now, though.

"Im not even trying to look that far out," Mayo said when asked how the defense may transform. "Im looking to now. Im looking toward watching this film from today and going out tomorrow and improving on that."

Even though these aren't padded practice and there's no collisions, Mayo said the OTAs have value in terms of tempo.

"We try to practice just as hard now without pads as we do with pads," he said. "Even though were not actually hitting each other, were out there going hard. Were out there being safe but at the same time trying to get those looks and making sure everyone is on the same page, especially when people get tired."

Gronkowski returns to practice; Mason, Branch still missing

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Gronkowski returns to practice; Mason, Branch still missing

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had a welcome face back on the practice field on Wednesday, as tight end Rob Gronkowski returned to action after missing the team's previous five practices as he dealt with an injury. 

Gronkowski participated in the warmup period of practice and then remained with the majority of his teammates for drills. 

The last time Gronkowski was spotted on the field was last Monday, which was the first of three joint practices between the Patriots and the Bears. He pulled up after pursuing a Tom Brady pass, walked along the sideline, met with head trainer Jim Whalen, and then left practice early. He did not suit up for Thursday's game against Chicago. 

Gronkowski has not participated in a preseason game since 2012. 

Patriots not spotted at Wednesday's practice were Shaq Mason, Jonathan Cooper, Sebastian Vollmer (on the physically unable to perform list) and Dion Lewis (also on PUP). Alan Branch, who has been suspended by the team before last week's preseason game, was also missing. 

Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Malcolm Mitchell, Shea McClellin, Tre' Jackson (PUP) and Danny Amendola (PUP) were present for warmups but went to a lower field for conditioning. Amendola and Jackson were not in pads for the short-and-shells session. 

Jon Bon Jovi was taking in the session alongside Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. 

Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

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Wednesday's Red Sox-Rays lineups: Ramirez gets night off

Hanley Ramirez is getting a night off as the Red Sox look for their third straight win against the Rays tonight at Tropicana Field.

Travis Shaw will play first base, with Brock Holt at third.

Tonight's lineups:

RED SOX:
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Mookie Betts RF
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Sandy Leon C
Brock Holt 3B
Travis Shaw 1B
Andrew Benintendi LF
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Rick Porcello P

RAYS:
Logan Forsythe 2B
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Evan Longoria 3B
Brad Miller SH
Matt Duffy SS
Logan Morrison 1B
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Corey Dickerson LF
Bobby Wilson C
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Matt Andriese P