FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots first-round draft pick Jerod Mayo figured that if he was picked high in the NFL draft he would be part of a rebuilding process.
Instead, he wound up on a team that won 18 straight games before losing the Super Bowl.
"Just being able to come to a winning situation ... I never thought I'd be able to come to a team that only lost one game," Mayo said Thursday. "I'm ready to get my playbook and start to practice."
The Patriots showed off their new linebacker for the cameras at midfield of Gillette Stadium on Thursday, with team owner Robert Kraft and his son giving Mayo a ceremonial No. 1 jersey. Mayo also spent some time in Kraft's office chatting with the owner.
The rest of New England's draft class and rookie free agents will hit the field on Friday for a three-day minicamp designed to get them accustomed to the nuts and bolts of playing for the Patriots.
The Patriots picked Mayo with the 10th overall selection in last weekend's draft after trading out of the No. 7 spot they obtained in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. New England's original first-rounder was confiscated by the league as punishment for illegally videotaping New York Jets' coaches in Week 1.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick picked up Mayo and two other linebackers to help ease the transition from the veteran and aging corps that has helped the team win three Super Bowls and reach another. Tedy Bruschi will be 35, Mike Vrabel 33, and Adalius Thomas 31 when the season starts; Junior Seau, if he comes back for another year, will be 39.
The Patriots also picked up Shawn Crable of Michigan and Bo Ruud from Nebraska. They also signed Victor Hobson, 28, who became a free agent after playing for the Jets.
"It feels like the first day of school," Mayo said. "I'm just going to be a sponge here, pick up a lot of things from the veterans. Hopefully I can have a long career like some of them."
He also hopes to learn from Belichick. The two have spoken only briefly, and when the coach called to say New England was taking him, Mayo didn't believe it at first.
"He's a great coach, a championship-winning coach," Mayo said. "Throughout my career, I've had all different styles of coaches. So I think I will adjust pretty well."
Mayo played both inside and outside linebacker at Tennessee. Belichick gave no hint how he would be used in the Patriots' 3-4 defensive alignment.
"They just want me to be a football player," Mayo said. "I'm just ready to put my pads on and hit somebody."
Before walking on the field, Kraft asked Mayo for his thoughts, and the player said Kraft and Mayo go together. Kraft and his family are not affiliated with the food conglomerate, but Kraft liked the idea.
"I think Kraft and Mayo go very well together," the owner said.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press