FOXBOROUGH — Jerod Mayo doesn’t spend much time outside of Massachusetts, doesn’t stray far from Gillette Stadium.
Except for earlier this year, when he took wife Chantel on a getaway to St. Thomas.
“That was cool,” said Mayo Thursday. “You can actually see fish swimming up to you on the beach. I’m from where the dirty water is.”
His gray jersey was dark from his shoulders to his stomach, not from being outside in the rain that visited Foxborough around lunchtime, but from his workout in the weight room.
Although he lamented the fact that the offseason program is shorter now under the collective bargaining agreement — it does not start until mid-April, where once it was March — Mayo is happy to be putting in the time.
“I look at this as my profession,” he said. “I’m always trying to get better. I don’t want there to be rules in place where your strength coach can’t work with you.
“I like to work. I like to try to get better, and a lot of guys around here like to do that as well. So if it was longer, shorter, I don’t think it would be that big of a difference, but I can only speak for this team. Guys like to get in there.”
The 27-year-old team captain, who declared himself healthy and injury-free, is pleased with the attendance in the offseason program, which not only helps build camaraderie but can lead to guys working harder.
“Guys have really taken to getting better, especially the young guys,” said Mayo. “The older guys pretty much know their bodies, but the young guys have really come in and tried to learn as much as they can.
“It’s always better than working out by yourself. You try to get that last set in [alone], you’re just kind of like, ‘Ah, I don’t want to do that.’ But if you have someone looking over your shoulder, like, ‘Hey, come on, do it,’ you’ll get it done.”
Mayo hasn’t been keeping track of the moves the Patriots have made since March, noting that Bill Belichick and the Kraft family have a history of making good decisions, so it isn’t his place to question them.
But a new crop of rookies is in the building, and while he hasn’t met all of them, he knows it’s a group effort to get them all ready for the season.
“We have a bunch of leaders on this team,” said Mayo. “Not only can they learn from me just because they’re on the defensive side of the ball, but you can learn from Tom [Brady], Vince [Wilfork], guys that have been here, that have won championships.
“We have a lot of great leaders here and it takes — what’s the old saying, it takes a community to raise a child? That’s how we do it here.”
Heading into his sixth season, Mayo recalled that his biggest struggle transitioning from college at Tennessee to the NFL was the hours he had to put in. He welcomed the challenge, saying it was better than being in study hall and he has always enjoyed watching film.
And there are like-minded people throughout the team facility.
“If you love football, this is the place for you,” Mayo said. “Everyone around here loves to play football, they love the game.
“You go to some teams or you see some players or you hear other players say they’re just doing it for a paycheck, but guys here, they genuinely love the game, the coaches love the game, and we’re all trying to get better.”
As comfortable as he’s become living in the area — Chantel is from here and his children were born here — there are still one or two things the Virginia-born Mayo hasn’t figured out about New England living.
“We pretty much stay here year-round, even though the snow gets bad sometimes,” he said. “It was hard to find a snow blower. I still don’t have one. I’m going to try to pick one up in the summertime.”
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The Patriots signed wide receiver Lavelle Hawkins. Terms were not announced. Hawkins, 26, was released by the Tennessee Titans May 1. He had 71 receptions for 771 yards and 1 touchdown in five seasons with Tennessee (2008-12). Last season he had five catches for 62 yards in seven games. Hawkins, 5 feet 11 inches, 194 pounds, was drafted in the fourth round (126th overall) out of California in 2008.
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Felix Jones, 26, is drawing interest from the Patriots, NFL sources said. The versatile but injury-prone running back played just seven games last season for the Cowboys, his fifth year with the team. Jones, a first-round pick (22d overall) out of Arkansas in 2008, is a slippery receiver out the backfield — he had 48 receptions for 450 yards in 2010 — and can return kicks (24.0-yard average in 64 career returns). The NFL Network reported that Jones has worked out for Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
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Former Houston Texans guard Antoine Caldwell and former San Diego Chargers guard Rex Hadnot had tryouts with the Patriots, NFL sources confirmed. Caldwell, 27, has started 19 of 39 games in four years with the Texans. Caldwell, 6-3, 315 pounds, started six of the 11 games he played last season. The 31-year-old Hadnot is 6-2, 310. He has also played with Miami, Cleveland, and Arizona, with 96 starts in 130 career games.