FOXBORO -- Think Jerod Mayo missed football after he was placed on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle last season?
Picture this: The Patriots linebacker sitting at home, alone, watching his teammates on TV, making defensive calls as he so often did while on the field and healthy.
Sound like a guy enjoying an early vacation?
Mayo met with members of the media on Tuesday to discuss what it was like for him to watch New England's defense cope without him, and how his time away from the game has had an effect on how he views his own longevity.
"They always say you're closer to the end than you are the beginning," Mayo said. "That's the mindset you have to have in football. I've always appreciated the game. I've always appreciated being around the guys, being in the locker room. When it's taken away from you like that, it's kind of tough. But at the same time, the guys were supportive the coaches were very supportive and I'm just glad to be back now."
After undergoing surgery to repair his pec -- "they just tack it back down," is how Mayo described the medical procedure -- the 28-year-old says he feels good. He admitted, though, that if the season started this week, he didn't know if he'd be well enough to participate in a game.
Mayo played it close to the vest when asked for a timetable for when he was hoping to be back on the field.
"I don't know how it'll feel when we start going out there doing different things as far as a little bit of contact drills," he explained. "Even though there's no pads, you can fall a certain way so I'm just gonna take it one day at a time and see how it goes."
Whenever he is back playing and taking some contact, Mayo admitted there will be a period of time during which he'll have to trust his upper-body again.
"OTAs, training camp, the games," Mayo said, "I think they're all different milestones that you have to get to to really gain that confidence in the injury."
During the last two thirds of last season, Mayo had different ways of keeping up with the team on Sundays. Whether he was watching the Patriots at home by himself or on the sidelines serving as a defacto assistant, he tried to remain as involved with the team as possible.
The Patriots also lost Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly to season-ending injuries early in the year. Though it was difficult not to be able to have any effect on the outcomes from week-to-week, Mayo said he and his injured teammates would watch games together at times.
"Those guys are very talented players up front and I feel like I can hold my own at the second level," he said. "And it was very difficult just watching it on TV, and you know what's supposed to be done. And sometimes those guys would go out there and make good plays and you're very excited for the young guys. Hopefully those young guys that have played a lot of football -- a lot of good football -- for us last year, that'll carry over into this year. That jump from the first year to the second year is always the biggest."
No matter how players like Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower -- a rookie and a second-year player, respectively -- played last year, it was still difficult for Mayo to not be involved.
With Mayo, Kelly and Wilfork out, the Patriots finished as the 30th-ranked rushing defense in the NFL.
"It was very tough," he said. "Any time you go through training camp and you go through those games, you build that camaraderie and that brotherhood. Tough watching guys go out there and play, but at the same time they did a good job. Right now we're focused on this year, and hopefully I can stay healthy and be out there with my guys."
And according to him, he's currently on the right track.
"I think every day I'm getting stronger, I'm getting better," Mayo said. "But, once again, I won't know until I get out there and start really playing the game of football . . . If it was flag football it would be cool."