New England Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo addresses the media during his conference call and discusses winning the 2008 Associated Press Rookie Defensive Player of the Year award.
Q: What does it mean to you to coming in with the Patriots and to win this award?
JM: It definitely means a lot to me. I knew when they first drafted me that I was going to a winning organization. They had older guys on the team that I knew I could learn from. I look at it as a team award because I couldn't have done it without those guys.
Q: When you had your first press conference with the media you alluded to fact that one of your goals was to be the best you could be and to win this award. Do you feel like it was a mission accomplished as far as your personal goals?
JM: Like you said that was one of my goals coming into the season, one of my personal goals. But, the team goals – those came first. We fell short and won 11 games. My main goal was to make it to the playoffs and win the Super Bowl, but it's definitely an honor to get this award. Hopefully, I can build off this and have a successful campaign next year.
Q: Some people who thought that the complicated schemes of the Patriots defense would be tough to grasp. How tough was it for you?
JM: It was really tough to be honest. There were a lot of hours after practice with Coach [Matt] Patricia, the linebackers coach, and a lot of hours with [Tedy] Bruschi – I couldn't have done it without those guys, spending extra time with me on and off the field. I'm still not to the point where I'm just out there reacting yet, but I pretty much have the basics of the playbook.
Q: When you came in did you expect you would be a starter from day one and would start all the way through the season or was it a surprise that you started all 16 games?
JM: It definitely was a surprise. Those guys had won 18 games the previous year. So, there wasn't too much in my mind to improve on an 18 win team. But, the opportunity presented itself to go in and play. Coach Belichick, Coach Pees and Coach Patricia had enough faith and confidence to put me in the game and hopefully I didn't disappoint.
Q: You are now the third inside linebacker in a row to win this award. What do you think it is about your particular position that allows players of your caliber to make plays in the NFL to such a degree that you are able to win this award?
JM: We are pretty much in the middle of everything. The inside linebacker on defense makes the calls. I feel like if a defensive player is running around, especially at the linebacker position, he will come into some plays and that's what happened this year.
Q: What are your plans for the offseason? Will you be here in Foxboro or bouncing back and forth from Virginia?
JM: For the most part I will be here in Foxboro trying to get better. It is a nonstop thing for me. Football is my life. I love football. I am going to study this past season, the things I did well and the things I did poorly and try to improve on those things. I feel like there is still a lot of room for me to improve my game. I will meet with the coaches and ask them, 'What can I do to get better?' I'm trying to have a great season next year. Hopefully, make it to the playoffs and win the Super Bowl.
Q: This is your first professional season, which is a lot longer than a college or high school season, but did it seem like it went by fast?
JM: Not at all. The season – it's been a long season. But, at the same time I was really excited to keep going. I was disappointed that we had to end the season the way we did. Everybody talks about the rookie wall and things like that… I am not going to sit here and lie to you and say that my body wasn't getting tired or mentally I wasn't getting tired, but at the same time as the season went on, the last two or three games I started getting that extra energy and that anticipation that we were going to go to the playoffs. It's a long season, but at the end of the day the main goal is to win the Super Bowl and I'm sure I could have made it the rest of those games.
Q: Can you talk a little bit more about the way that the veterans helped you out?
JM: Coming out of college, I had heard horror stories about coming in as a rookie - guys really wouldn't help you. I came into the Patriots organization thinking the worst that these guys weren't going to help me and they aren't going to want me to play, but it was the exact opposite. When I first walked through the door Bruschi was there, [Tom] Brady – they sat me down and welcomed me. They told me if I needed anything to holler at them and we exchanged numbers. From that day forward the older guys like Bruschi, Rodney Harrison, [Mike] Vrabel, Adalius Thomas – all of those guys have really taken me under their wing and I tried to learn as much as I can from them, how to be a professional, on and off the field.
Q: How much harder did it get for you when you lost Rodney Harrison, Adalius Thomas and Tedy Bruschi - when those guys weren't only out on the field, which may have changed your role but in terms of being a sounding board as well?
JM: To be honest, it didn't really change anything. Of course, I missed those guys out there especially Bruschi. He was like an older brother to me on the field and off the field. We still talked everyday and went over game plan things. But, on the field we had guys really step up and play some good football. I was out there with another rookie Gary Guyton; he played some good football this year. It was really the case of people stepping in and filling in those roles nicely, smooth transition.
Q: You are only the second Patriot to win this award, only Mike Haynes in 1976 was the other one. Not even Andre Tippett who is in the Hall of Fame won this award. What does that mean to you?
JM: It means a lot. Like I said earlier, it's a great honor. I look at it more as a team award because I couldn't have done it without 75 in front of me or 93 - none of those guys, those big guys in front of me, the secondary keeping the ball in front of them. So, I see it as a team award.
Q: Now that your rookie season is over is a personal goal going into your second season going to be to try to win the NFL defensive player of the year award?
JM: Most definitely. I set my goals high, but at the same time we have always been told to manage our expectations. So, my main goal is to get to the Super Bowl and win it. If I do that then I'm sure my personal goals will fall into place.