FOXBOROUGH — Jerod Mayo confirmed that his absence last week was not due to a personal issue, but otherwise the linebacker didn’t say much about his status or whether he’ll play Friday night when the Patriots host the Panthers in a preseason game.
Mayo was back on the practice field Monday, and chatted with reporters in the locker room Tuesday.
“I feel good, feel good,” he said. “I went out there yesterday, ran around a little bit. Feel pretty good.”
Mayo gave the “ask Coach Belichick” response when asked about his injury and whether he will be able to play against Carolina.
He regretted not being able to practice against Philadelphia.
“I always love going out there and practicing against other teams,” said Mayo. “It breaks up the monotony of camp, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to go out there. Feel good now.”
Whether he’ll play remains to be seen, but Mayo did discuss the challenge the Panthers’ offense presents, noting it is different than the Eagles’ system.
“The Eagles want to spread you out,” he said. “Carolina, they have a great running attack, three great backs, a quarterback [Cam Newton] that can also run but can make plays with his arm, so it will be a different challenge this week.”
The third preseason game generally serves as the closest thing to a dress rehearsal, with likely starters seeing a good amount of playing time.
To that end, the Patriots may at least be doing some game-planning for Newton and his receiving corps, which is entirely new from 2013; on Monday, some Patriots offensive players donned pinnies representing the numbers of rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin and tight end Greg Olson during practice.
When the Patriots faced the Panthers in the regular season last year, Newton completed nearly 68 percent of his passes, with three passing touchdowns and no interceptions, and he also rushed seven times for 62 yards. His passer rating that Monday night (125.4) was the highest the Patriots allowed all season.
“Any time you have a quarterback that can run and throw, everyone has to be disciplined, stay in your rush lanes,” Mayo said. “If you’re in pass coverage, stay in coverage. Until they pass that line of scrimmage, they can always throw the ball, there’s always a threat to throw the ball, so we all have to be alert.”
Time to study
The Patriots formally ended training camp Monday, with coaches and players able to return home after spending three weeks together in hotels both near the stadium and in Richmond (for their practices with Washington).
To open his press conference, coach Bill Belichick joked that it was good to be back home.
But where they’re resting their heads at night isn’t the only change for players and staff; after spending the last two weeks practicing with other teams, the Patriots will be going against one another for the remainder of the year.
That means they also won’t get the first-hand scouting reports they were able to get against Washington and Philadelphia; now it’s more about studying.
“That’s the biggest difference now, is we actually really get into a regular-season mode as far as watching film together, trying to get things just from film and go into the game that way,” said safety Devin McCourty, “so it’s starting to really get us prepared for the season.
“You have more conversations; it’s not as easy as playing it live. I think when you’re practicing against a team, you can talk about it right there on the field and sometimes two guys can come off and say, ‘Hey, I saw this. This is what it really was.’
“And when you’re on film, you might see something you think is similar but it might look a little different in two different games for one team, so you’ve just got to talk about it and make sure you get on the same page as far as how we want to see it going into the game.”
The Patriots did play the Panthers last season, but at least for defensive players, there won’t be much carryover: not one receiver who caught a pass from Newton is on the roster this year, and left tackle Jordan Gross retired.
Praise for LaFell
One of the receivers who left Carolina is Brandon LaFell. The former third-round pick signed a three-year free agent contract with the Patriots. On Tuesday, LaFell said he was “shell-shocked” during OTAs, trying to figure out his new offense, but he’s more comfortable now, something that has shown in recent practices.
Belichick was complimentary of the 6-foot-2-inch Houston native.
“He’s been good,” said the coach. “He’s been very diligent in trying to learn his assignments, learn the plays. He’s a tough kid. I think he’s been very competitive.
“Obviously, he’s a big target. He’s gotten better at the routes that we run. I thought that deep out that he ran in the game [against Philadelphia] was good. He created a lot of separation on that.
“He’s got a good skill set, a little different than some of our other guys, but he’s good and he’s tough.
“Whatever we’ve asked him to do, he’s done it and done it well. He’s gotten better at it. I think he’ll be able to carve out a role for himself here. It might be a big one. I don’t know; we’ll see.”
The Patriots were in full pads on the practice field once again.
As camp has ended and the public can no longer watch practices, the team restricts media viewing to a 15-minute window that consists primarily of stretching and warm-up drills.
Tackle Sebastian Vollmer was not present for the second straight day. Vollmer played 22 snaps against the Eagles, and it did not appear that he suffered an injury.
There was no announcement during the game that he had been hurt.
Also missing: defensive tackles Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga, tight end D.J. Williams, running back Tyler Gaffney, linebacker Cameron Gordon, and offensive lineman Chris Martin.
Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, who returned to practice Monday in a limited capacity, was in pads and working on a side field with members of the strength and conditioning staff; several other players, wearing just shorts and T-shirts, were working with Hoomanawanui.
Jones, injured in the preseason opener against Washington, did walk through the locker room without any kind of brace or wrap on either ankle, and without a limp.