There’s been a big focus on the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski this offseason, something that makes sense given how much better the New England offense was when Gronk was in the lineup last season than it was when he was out of action.
Gronkowski wasn’t the only key member of the Patriots to miss large portions of last season, however, and coach Bill Belichick spent some time Friday explaining how important one of the other returning players is to the team. Belichick says that linebacker Jerod Mayo is vital to what the team hopes to accomplish on both sides of the ball.
“I think he means a lot to our team. He’s, I’d say, really the guy that the team probably revolves around more than any other player. Not that there aren’t other players that are instrumental in that but I think he touches pretty much everybody, not just the defensive players but all the guys; not just the older guys but the younger guys,” Belichick said in his Friday press conference. “He’s got great work ethic, great presence on the football field and great personality that’s, I’d say, in a very good way professional but also has a good rapport with all the players and the coaches. I think he’s as well respected as any player in the locker room. I’d say one of the best overall team leaders, players, kind of a glue chemistry guy I’d say that I’ve been around.”
The Patriots like to attack teams in multiple ways defensively, something that was difficult last year when Mayo was out of the lineup for 10 games with a torn pectoral muscle. With Mayo back as a mentor for Jamie Collins, Donta’ Hightower and other young members of the front seven, Vince Wilfork back from an Achilles injury and Darrelle Revis joining the secondary, the Pats have a defense that looks as good as any they’ve had since the early days of Belichick’s tenure as head coach.