A banged up Patriots squad was back on the practice field Wednesday minus a half-dozen significant players.
First and foremost, linebacker/co-captain Jerod Mayo's season is over. The team placed him on injured reserve today after he reportedly underwent surgery to repair a torn right pectoral muscle. Mayo sustained the injury in the waning minutes of the Saints game.
Three other players who were injured versus New Orleans were not on the field at the start of practice: cornerback Aqib Talib (left hip), wide receiver Danny Amendola (concussion), and right guard Dan Connolly (concussion). New England was also without running back Leon Washington (ankle) and defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (right knee), both of whom missed last week's practices and the Saints game because of injuries they suffered a week prior at Cincinnati.
Mayo's loss leaves the Patriots with just two healthy co-captains – QB Tom Brady and left guard Logan Mankins. Wide receiver Matthew Slater remains a limited practice participant with his left wrist injury and hasn't played since Week 2 against the Jets. Head coach Bill Belichick wouldn't say whether he planned to add any new captains for the remainder of the season.
Meanwhile, running back Brandon Bolden was in uniform (shells for everyone today), but was seen riding an exercise bike during the stretching period. He has been limited in recent practices with a knee injury.
To fill Mayo's spot on the 53-man roster, New England re-signed defensive tackle Andre Neblett, who was on the team for three days of practice last week before being released.
The Patriots also had a free practice squad spot, which came when defensive tackle Marcus Forston was promoted for the Saints game. But New England is back to the eight-man limit after inking rookie cornerback Travis Howard of Ohio State. Howard spent the spring and summer with the Houston Texans before his release in late August.
Players, as usual, will be in the locker room early this afternoon for media interviews. We'll let you know if any of the missing/injured guys makes an appearance.
UPDATE… 3:19 P.M.
None of the injured players mentioned above spoke on the record this afternoon. Only one was even seen in the locker room at all, that being Amendola.
Mankins was one of several players who did, however. He shared his thoughts on Mayo's absence as a fellow captain.
"We have a lot of leadership, I think, on this team, not just the guys that are appointed captains. We have a lot of veteran guys that have been around a while that know what's expected of them and everyone else, and we'll miss Jerod, but whoever is in that spot is going to do a good job."
Mayo has historically been the defensive player who wears the in-helmet communication device to relay calls from the sideline to the other 10 defenders. Now, that responsibility will fall to second-year man Dont'a Hightower, who has some experience in the role.
"I'm looking forward to it. It's definitely something that I knew down the road, if something ever happened, that I would have to step up and do it. I'm not nervous about it. It's something I've done before… I know everyone is behind me and they support me. That's all I can ask for."