One of the pleasant surprises for the Patriots at the dawn of the latest training camp is having linebacker Jerod Mayo on the field, in uniform, and taking part in practice. The fact that he wasn't placed on the PUP list – a distinct possibility prior to camp after his season-ending right knee injury last season – is a positive sign for the co-captain.
"Obviously, I'm just taking it one day at a time. Just trying to get better each and every day," he said after Friday's practice.
Though it might sound like a cliché, for Mayo, there's more than a little truth to his "carpe diem" approach. For the past two seasons, the co-captain has suffered season-ending injuries in Week 6 of the regular season. He knows as well as any player on the field how precious each day – each snap, even – can be for a player's career.
These first couple of days of practice have been without full pads, and Mayo still is showing some signs of a limp from his most recent injury. Perhaps he'll be more of a spectator when the team goes to full pads this weekend.
"Whatever the coaches and trainers allow me to do, that's pretty much what I'm doing," added Mayo. "It's all about today. I went out there today, got some good work done. Hopefully, tomorrow, too."
"Jerod has always tried to do everything he can to help the team. He's always done that, on the field, off the field," observed head coach Bill Belichick. "He's got to get himself ready to go, like we all do. We all have a responsibility to do our job and he does a great job with that. He's always tried to do whatever we've asked him or whatever he feels like he can do to help the team and whatever area that is – on the field, off the field, in the weight room, offseason training – whatever it is."
Mayo was asked about his offseason, the second consecutive one spent largely in rehabilitation. He said he stayed in the Foxborough area, enjoyed some extra time with his family, and tried to get back on the field as quickly as he could.
One noticeable change Mayo made this year is a cosmetic one. Gone are his trademark cornrows. He shed them in favor of a more traditional hair cut.
"Hahaha, no, I don't miss those," he laughed when asked about the new 'do. "I'm getting old, so, I cut them off."
Check out photos from Patriots Training Camp at Gillette Stadium on Friday, July 31, 2015.
Jake of all trades
When the Patriots came out to the field in jerseys with numbers Friday, more than a few reporters were scratching their heads over who the new guy wearing number 85 was.
Turns out, he wasn't new at all. It was fourth-year man Jake Bequette, who during the offseason, was given the opportunity to go from defensive end to tight end.
Bequette, a third-round draft choice of New England in 2012, was mostly inactive in his first two seasons, and spent the 2014 campaign on the practice squad. The handwriting appeared to be on the wall for Bequette's career until the coaching staff gave him a second chance as an offensive player.
Some players struggle with the transition, but Bequette has not looked like a total stranger to the other side of the football. In fact, having played defense the past three years is helping him adjust to offense.
"It's a daily process, making progress, and like you said, getting in that comfort zone, making it feel like you've always done that. I'm not there yet," Bequette admitted after Friday's session. "There's a long way to go before I get there, but every day I make improvements. There are different things I see on film that give me confidence, and I think you'll see that as I progress.
"Knowing some defensive schemes, coverages, just kind of getting the idea of what defenses try to show you, play in and play out. Overall, there's a lot of fundamentals and progress I have to make on the offensive side of the ball. So, I'm focusing more on that."
As he enters year four with the Patriots, Bequette acknowledges that this is perhaps his last, best shot to continue his career in New England.
"Every day is a competitive battle. There are 90 guys grinding. Everyone's in a different position in their career. I'm changing positions. So, I've got to make it up in a hurry."
He said he's being helped along the way not only by his position coach, Brian Daboll, but also his more experienced teammates like Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler.
"They've been awesome," stated Bequette. "They're like two more coaches in the room, along with Coach Daboll, who does a great job himself. We've got a vet room, a lot of good players in there. It's a competitive unit, competitive team, competitive offense. We've got a lot of good players. If I'm going to find a role, I've got to do some things that other guys may not do as well. Hopefully [as a blocker] in the running game, I can bring something to the table there. Just overall, be a complete player and help the team.
"I'm just happy to have the opportunity."
Look, up in the sky!
In response to Thursday's invasion of Patriots training camp by a Jets fan-sponsored advertising plane, a local business sent up a plane of its own Friday, touting a banner that said it supports Tom Brady and "Go Pats!"
Thursday, a plane circled the practice fields for much of the morning's session with a banner that made a not-so-subtle reference to the DeflateGate controversy. When asked if he noticed it, Belichick responded, "I don't know what you're talking about. What plane?"
At least one of Belichick's players caught sight of the Jets banner.
"You know, it's pretty funny actually to see those kinds of things," wide receiver Julian Edelman conceded. "Truthfully, you look up and you hear the whistle and you've got to get to the next period, so Coach [Belichick] is over here yelling at us to get to the next period. You can't even really think of it. Coach always has his tactics to keep us in the game."
Buy: Malcolm Butler – New England's Super Bowl star seemed to pick up where he left off in Arizona, providing tight coverage on receivers during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 action and knocking down at least two passes.