By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
When the lockout ends, the teams that were best able to self-start during the 2011 offseason will have a significant advantage.
Jerod Mayo thinks the Patriots will be in that group.
Asked Tuesday on WEEI's Big Show about the team's ability to be self-sufficient, Mayo told me, "I think we're close to the top, to be honest with you. Coach Belichick really instills that work ethic when you're a rookie coming in. You have to learn the Patriot way and the Patriot way is do the right thing when no one's looking. You have to have that mental toughness and I think for the most part this team has that."
Since March, Mayo's been the lead organizer of workouts in Foxboro with trainer Brian McDonough. This is an off-week for the group but Mayo says the "dozen or so" players taking part will continue to do so until the start of training camp.
"After keeping in contact with the rest of my teammates, I think guys have been working hard. But at the end of the day, you won't know the kind of shape guys are in until they get to Foxboro. When the deal does get done, you have to take a look and see the kind of shape they're in and proceed from that."
And Mayo points out that the incoming rookies will have a mountain to climb inlimited time.
"It sets them back a little bit," Mayo said when asked how the lockout will impact the young players who haven't had contact with the coaches. "I learned a lot coming in as a rookie just being around the older guys. Not only being with (linebackers coach Matt Patricia) but being with (Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel). Just being around them Ilearned how to play football, how to be a professional on and off the field. How to watch film, watching the previous year -- even though you're a rookie you still watch the previous year -- doing things like that you learn a lot about the system, you learn a lot about your teammates and just the overall camaraderie is missing right now. It's going to be a crash course when they get here. Itkind of puts them behind the 8-ball a little bit."
In contrast, Mayo said he's expecting a big jump from guys entering their second year at the linebacker spot: Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham and Dane Fletcher.
Mayo, like the rest of us, remains in a football holding pattern as the two sides try and hammer out an agreement.
"I'm basically assuming that everything gets worked out," he explained. "These guys have these deadlines and hopefully something gets done before the deadline comes and we start training camp on time. I was living and dying with it but it was like an emotional roller coaster. Now I'm just waiting for the big news. I'm not a diehard watcher right now. I'm drained from the roller coaster ride we've had along the way."