FOXBORO -- For the first time in a long time, the Patriots have started their offseason program without linebacker Jerod Mayo and his outsized personality.
Drafted with the No. 10 overall pick in 2008, Mayo quickly established himself as a team leader. He was named a captain before the start of his second professional season and directed traffic in the middle of the Patriots defense for the majority of his career until injuries started to pile up in 2013. He ended each of his final three seasons in a Patriots uniform on injured reserve and announced his retirement in February.
Now that the Patriots are back at Gillette Stadium and working out during the first phase of the offseason program, which began on Monday, it's starting to settle in that Mayo won't be joining them as they prepare for the 2016 season.
"It's a little more quiet not having Mayo around," said Patriots safety Devin McCourty. "But we'll see. He was a huge part of this team. Offense, defense, everything. He was a huge part. Obviously I don't think you can replace him with a guy. You can't tell a guy on the team, 'Well now you need to step up into Mayo's role.'
"I think that's why it's always so important to understand that every year the team is different. I think this team will be a little different without him. But we'll have to see how it changes, what develops. He'll definitely be missed in the locker room and on the field just because of who he is and how great a person he is."
It's early enough in the team-building process that McCourty, a captain himself, admitted that there hasn't been any sort of shift in team leadership in Mayo's absence. There isn't a player who has made a point of shouldering the load Mayo left behind.
That could come later, but if it does, it has to be organic, McCourty explained.
"We lift at different times," McCourty said. "We've got two different groups so the team's kind of split on whether you want to work out earlier, work out a little later so I think guys are just being themselves. That's what I always tell guys. I encourage them to be yourself and everything else will fall in suit."