NASHVILLE — Jerod Mayo is all in.
Want to hose down the rookies and make them dive for loose balls in sludge? Mayo’s all in.
Want to practice under a blazing hot sun and sauna-like humidity? Mayo’s all in.
Want to start calling the defensive plays in your first season on the Patriots coaching staff. Oh yeah, Mayo’s all in.
In the New England’s final training camp practice open the public last week, Tom Brady was having a ball splashing his newest teammates with a hose. Mayo decided he would join in the water works seeing that he was, in a sense, a rookie, too. So, Mayo and the other rookie coaches did the slip and slide thing much to the delight of all.
“I’d never seen anything like that, so it was funny,’’ said Michael Bennett. “But seeing Jerod do it, and knowing his reputation in the NFL, and his first year being a coach, seeing him do that was funny. Him sliding and the rest of the guys and Tom was just having too good of a time.’’
Mayo’s been having a good time, too.
During Thursday’s practice in the searing Southern heat, Mayo was hooting and hollering during warmups, firing up the players and reminding them that performing under such conditions would be as much a mental test as a physical one.
While it’s unclear just how much play calling Mayo is doing, he’s making the signals during practice and again in Saturday night’s 22-17 win over the the Titans and is clearly on the path to succeeding Matt Patricia and Brian Flores.
It looked like a team coaching effort against Tennessee, as Mayo, Bill Belichick, and safeties coach Steve Belichick never strayed too far from one another on the sideline.
Patricia, who said Mayo is “like a son to me,’’ saw this career path coming for his former star linebacker.
“When he was a player, he was that cerebral type of guy that always had those conversation about game-planning,’’ Patricia said last week. “What are the calls and situations? How do we want to handle this, what would we do in those to take guys away? He was just kind of right there every step of the way.’’
Having such a deep knowledge of the Patriots defense makes Mayo, who carries the title of inside linebackers coach, a natural to someday be a defensive coordinator.
It’s not just his technical expertise, however. Mayo’s gregarious personality and success as a player make him a natural leader.
“People trust him, and he can connect with the players because he’s been in the locker room and he doesn’t disconnect from them,’’ Bennett said. “I think that’s the greatest part about it because they resonate with everything he’s been through. People listen to him and they trust his opinion, and they know he’s got their best interest at heart.’’
Belichick on Gordon
Just hours before he was putting the final touches on preparations for his club’s exhibition game with the Titans, Belichick weighed in on the NFL’s decision to reinstate Josh Gordon .
“For the past eight months, Josh’s situation has been entirely a league matter,’’ the Patriots coach said in a statement released by the team. “When Josh returns to our program, we will evaluate the entire situation and do what we feel is best for Josh and the team.’’
While Gordon could immediately jump to No. 2 on the team’s depth chart when he reports to Foxborough as early as Sunday, it’s clear Belichick is taking a wait-and-see approach with Gordon.
After acquiring him early last season from the Browns for a draft pick, Gordon had an immediate impact on the offense, catching 40 passes for 720 yards and three touchdowns before he was indefinitely suspended in last December for violating the terms of his conditional reinstatement under the league’s policy on substance abuse.
It will need to be a quick evaluation of Gordon, who is allowed to practice right away but can’t play until New England’s final preseason game against the Giants Aug. 29. That’s typically a game where the starters see little or no playing time.
Rookies standing out
■ Similar to last week’s dominating win over the Lions, it was another strong game for the Patriots’ rookie class with tailback Damien Harris, quarterback Jarrett Stidham, receiver Jakobi Meyers, defensive end Chase Winovich, cornerback Joejuan Williams, defensive tackle Byron Cowart, and punter Jake Bailey all having nice moments.
“They’ve worked hard, they’ve tried hard, they’ve got a long way to go,’’ Belichick said of his rookies. “They’re working hard and I respect that. They’ve improved and that’s a good thing.’’
■ Harris made his debut and rushed for 80 yards on 14 carries. He showed good vision, sharp cuts, and nifty burst and power in setting up New England’s first two touchdowns. Brandon Bolden and Nick Brossette scored them, but Harris carried the mail. He came back on the game-winning drive and flashed his receiving ability with an 8-yard catch.
“He’s been a tough player throughout his career in college,’’ said Belichick. “That was our first live look at it, a real live run, and I thought he ran hard.’’
■ Stidham had a nice opening drive to the second half, leading a 10-play, 81-yard drive, and then spearheaded the go-ahead 99-yard touchdown drive capped with a beautiful on-target sideline throw to Damoun Patterson, who made an equally impressive end-zone catch.
Stidham wasn’t as sharp as last week was almost picked three times, including one by the goal line that Amani Hooker dropped.
“I got pretty lucky there a couple times . . . but I trust my guys to go out and make those plays and sure enough they did,’’ said Stidham. “I don’t need to put the ball in too much danger, so I’ve got to work on that.’’
Stidham has looked indecisive at times during practice but shows a confident calmness in game action.
“I’m just trying to make whatever play I can to help the drive and help the team win,’’ said Stidham, who finished 14 of 19 for 193 yards. “That really all I care about is helping the team.’’
■ Meyers is so silky smooth out of his breaks. He sets up defenders with stuttersteps and leaves them flatfooted as he changes speeds and directions effortlessly. He caught 6 balls on 6 targets for 82 yards and every catch seemed better than the previous one.
“He’s a heck of a player,’’ said Stidham. “We’re rookies together, so hopefully we get to grow together.’’
Winovich was a savage. The high-motor guy was high-impact again, as he lived in the Titans backfield at times, set the edge others, and also was chasing guys down from behind. Winovich finished with five tackles, a sack, and two quarterback hits.
He credited his grandmother, who has been promising him since he was a kid that she give $5 and chocolate when he played hard.
“I need that $5,’’ he said with a smile after the game.
■ Williams played the majority of the game as a boundary defender and finished with a pair of passes defensed. He great work covering the shifty Corey Davis, who was held to one catch.
■ Cowart recorded a sack on the second play of the game when he pushed guard Rodger Saffold nearly to Memphis before burying Marcus Mariota. Cowart got off to a slow start in camp but has really surged.
■ Bailey continues to show off a powerful leg, with his most impressive feat a 67-yard free kick after a safety.
A regular night off
Tom Brady and a lot of the projected Patriots starters got Saturday night off against Titans after a pair of joint practices where the first-stringers received a heavy workload . . . Brady started the night by being the lone Patriot represented at the coin toss for the second straight. A perennial captain, Brady never attends the flip during the regular season. He ended the night with a cross field sprint to shake hands with Titans coach and friend Mike Vrabel . . . Phillip Dorsett, who missed Thursday practice after coming down hard after a catch Wednesday, was in full uniform and took kick return reps during warmups but did not play . . . Isaiah Wynn got the start — his first game action — after the left tackle saw an uptick in first-team reps during the week. He played the first three series and acquitted himself well. “Isaiah had a good week and hopefully he’ll play tonight and build on that,’’ Belichick said during his pregame radio spot on 98.5 . . . Dan Skipper, who had been rotating at left tackle with Wynn, started at right tackle then shifted to left . . . Tight end Lance Kendricks, who shed his red noncontact jersey midpractice Wednesday, was in uniform and wearing No. 83, which had belonged to Matt LaCosse, who is out with an ankle injury. He caught one pass for 28 yards . . . Patrick Chung, who has been in a red jersey throughout camp, had an active pregame, first playing catch with fans in the stands and then testing out his shoulder by colliding with Nate Ebner and then Malik Gant during drills. He was very animated after each hit, so that red jersey might end up in mothballs by Monday . . . Brian Hoyer was picked off by Logan Ryan on New England’s second snap . . . Spotted in the crowd: A group of three Brady jerseys. One from his days at Juniper Serra High, one from his Michigan days, and a current model . . . The Jets, Dolphins, Steelers, Ravens, Texans, Browns, and Eagles had scouts at the game . . . Tennessee’s uniform combo of the dark blue jerseys and baby blue pants is among the league’s best.