Mayo Ready To Play, Just Hold The Puns

The Patriots were pleased to land a top linebacker for their veteran defense in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft. After trading spots with the New Orleans Saints, Tennessee's Jerod Mayo became the first linebacker taken in the first round under the Bill Belichick regime.

The New England Patriots landed their man and improved their draft status in one fell swoop today. New England swapped first round picks with the New Orleans Saints in a trade that was initially setup on Friday. The pre-draft preparations were necessary due to the condensed timeframe of the Draft this year as each pick was reduced from 15 minutes to 10 in the first round and from 10 to 7 in the second.

Head coach Bill Belichick was pleased with the groundwork the team laid during the week that paid off in the trade with the Saints. The Patriots lined up potential suitors during the week, with the possibility that Darren McFadden, Matt Ryan or Sedrick Ellis could be available to New England at the No. 7 spot. The Patriots banked on one of those scenarios playing out so they could trade down.

"We were on the clock at seven, the timing, we did a little bit of prep work with the New Orleans trade last night and a little bit before we were on the clock," said Belichick. "We anticipated that scenario and New Orleans was certainly looking for Sedrick Ellis. I think that was no big secret and when he was still on the board that kind of led to the next step of going through and executing that trade."

LB Jerod Mayo assists on the tackle

The addition of Mayo, who led all SEC tacklers with 140 last season, fills a gaping hole the Patriots have at the insider linebacker position. Though Belichick wouldn't commit to where Mayo fits in, he confirmed that adding the talented playmaker bolsters a defense in dire need of a youth movement.

"I think he was pretty good when he was outside," said Belichick of how Mayo's college play might affect his position at the pro level. "I think he played well at Mike and Sam and Will so those are all 4-3 off-the-line positions and in the 3-4 defense we have only two off-the-line positions but sometimes we can adjust the front and he plays in those different spots and so forth."

Mayo was overjoyed at being selected by the Patriots. Not expecting to be taken so early in the Draft, he was clearly pleased during a conference call to the local media.

"I definitely was surprised," said Mayo. "This is a winning organization and even for them to have a pick this high really surprised me. I'm just overwhelmed and I'm ready to get to New England and play for a great coach and a great team."

The Patriots hosted a number of high profile linebackers before the Draft including; Vernon Gholston who was selected by the Jets (6th overall) and Keith Rivers who was taken by the Bengals (9th overall). Once both those players were off the board, Mayo became the next logical choice. His recent visit to Foxborough was enough to show New England all it needed to take the 6-foot-1, 242-pound former Volunteer.

"I had a great visit when I came down there," said Mayo. "The coaches and I sat down and talked football for a long time. Like I said, I just had a great visit and I felt like we clicked. I'm just excited, man, I just can't even explain right now. I just got drafted and I'm just excited. I'm pretty much speechless."

Mayo's excitement has to be second to players on the Patriots defense, a unit that yielded just 288.3 yards per game during the regular season (4th best overall), but slipped to a more pedestrian 333 yards per game (7th out of 16) in the playoffs.

Chances are Mayo is going to hear his name called often by the announcers on game day. That's ok with him as long as the headlines are more original than 'Hold the Mayo,' which has been the top moniker associated with him over the years.

"That's kind of getting played out now," said the team's top draft pick. As long as he's making plays, Mayo can be called anything he wants.

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