FOXBOROOGH – Ever get a B-minus on a test or polite applause after a middling karaoke performance?

That’s how Jerod Mayo feels about his rookie season.

Even after being named Defensive Rookie of the Year, Mayo offered what amounted to a shrug yesterday when discussing his 2008 campaign. It was as if his 128 tackles and wire-to-wire starting job never happened.

“To be honest, I feel like I can get so much better,” the Patriots linebacker said following a workout. “Last year, I felt like the season I had was OK, but I felt like I could have made so many more plays, big plays, especially.”

Mayo is well aware his final stats showed only a single forced fumble and recovery. He had no interceptions or sacks, and he isn’t about to let the fact that he wasn’t asked to blitz up the middle let him off the hook.

“Playing linebacker, that’s the type of thing that you’re expected to do – make interceptions, force fumbles and things like that,” he said. “That’s one aspect of my game I’m looking forward to improving this year.”

In an effort to improve, Mayo has spent virtually the entire offseason in Foxboro, working out daily at Gillette Stadium and pushing himself to be better than he was during his much-heralded rookie season, which included a monster 20-tackle game against the Jets.

When he says last year wasn’t good enough, he means it.

He comes by his intense drive honestly.

“I got that from my mother,” he said. “I could go out there and have 50 tackles in a game and she would say, ‘You missed three.’ That’s just the way it was at home.”

Mayo laughed, but he’s deadly serious about elevating his game. He anticipates being given more opportunities to become a playmaker on both sides of the line of scrimmage now that he’s more familiar with the system.

“I try to make plays all over the field,” he said. “Whatever is asked of me, I try to get done. I didn’t do as much blitzing, but hopefully this year, my role will expand in that aspect. They didn’t want to put too much responsibility on me.”

That won’t be the case this year. The trade of Mike Vrabel makes Mayo the most likely player to don the green dot on his helmet as the defensive signal-caller. He wouldn’t mind making some of the big plays Vrabel was known for as a Pro Bowler, too.

“I’m close to the line of scrimmage, but at the same time, I’m sure the coaches are expecting me to make the plays back there (behind the line) as well,” Mayo said. “They put a lot on you here. They put a lot on the linebackers here to make the calls and make the adjustments but also to make big plays.”

With Vrabel gone, Rodney Harrison pondering retirement and Tedy Bruschi nearing the end of a standout career, the Pats will be expecting more out of Mayo this season, and he plans on delivering it.

“I feel like I can improve in all aspects of my game,” Mayo said. “I knew the playbook last year, but I didn’t know it to the point where I was out there reacting. I was out there thinking and trying to use my athleticism to make up for mistakes.”


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