COMMENTARY| The New England Patriots have lost another core player for an extended period of time.
A 2008 first-round draft choice out of the University of Tennessee, Mayo is a leader on the Patriots defense. With 55 tackles through the first six games, he was the team's leading tackler.
Despite two Pro Bowl appearances and having recorded at least 95 tackles in each of his first five full seasons, Mayo took on additional importance with the Patriots this year. With defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, the de facto leader of the defense, being lost for the year in Week 4 with a torn Achilles tendon, Mayo became the new lead dog. At the time of his own injury, he was making plays all over the field in addition to his duties of calling plays.
WEEI's Christopher Price noted Mayo has previously missed just four games in his career, and had played 98 percent of the team's defensive snaps this season prior to his injury.
Mayo suffered his tear in the second half of the New Orleans' game when attempting to tackle running back Darren Sproles. He was taken off the field and later seen leaving the stadium with his arm in a sling, which turned out to be a harbinger of things to come.
In addition to the hurting linebacker, the game may have cost the Patriots even more, as several other players suffered injuries.
The Boston Globe's Zuri Berry reported wide receiver Danny Amendola (concussion), cornerback Aqib Talib (hip) and guard Dan Connelly (head) all departed early and have uncertain statuses going forward.
The Patriots currently sit at 5-1 and in first place in the AFC East. Having staked themselves to an early cushion, they have a bit of a margin of error when it comes to making the playoffs. However, the loss of Mayo will not only make that a tough task, but his absence is an especially difficult void to fill if they do make the postseason.
According to the Yahoo report, New England head coach Bill Belichick was stoic about the loss of his star linebacker. "I think I've been on record many times talking about Jerod," he said. "He does a lot for us on the field, off the field. But we're just going to have to move on."
Unless the team decides to pursue a veteran, they will likely replace Mayo with the combination of Dane Fletcher and Steve Beauharnais.
Fletcher is in his fourth season. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but has since made a successful recovery. He has played sparingly so far this season, with eight tackles-most of which have come on special teams. He has totals of 63 tackles and two sacks in part-time duty in 29 career games.
The 23-year-old Beauharnais is a rookie out of Rutgers. A seventh-round pick, he has yet to record a tackle this season.
The news of Mayo's injury is devastating for the Patriots, who despite their strong start are reeling because of their fallen key players. The linebacker will return next year, but the team will have to find a way to survive without him if they want to finish off a successful 2013 season.
In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.
You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.
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