Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com
The former All-Pro selection underwent surgery for a torn pectoral muscle Tuesday, a league source told ESPNBoston.com, confirming an earlier report by Yahoo! Sports.
“He does a lot for us, on the field, off the field. We’re just going to have to move on,” coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday morning.
The Patriots re-signed defensive tackle Andre Neblett, who had been released last week, to fill Mayo’s roster spot.
Mayo, a team captain, was injured in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ 30-27 victory against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. He was spotted leaving Gillette Stadium with his right arm in a sling.
One of the few defenders in the Patriots’ front seven who plays on all downs, the six-year veteran also had the important job of leading the team’s defensive huddle, getting the play calls from the sideline and relaying them to teammates.
Mayo is a two-time Pro Bowler and was a 2010 first-team All-Pro selection and has led the Patriots in tackles in each of his first five seasons in the league. He has 55 tackles this season.
In the Patriots’ base 4-3 defense, Mayo has mostly played the weak side, with Brandon Spikes in the middle and Dont’a Hightower on the strong side. Rookie Jamie Collins, the Patriots’ top draft choice (52nd overall), is a leading candidate to step in for Mayo. Four-year veteran Dane Fletcher, whose primary contributions have come on special teams, is another option.
Meanwhile, Hightower is the top choice to lead the huddle on early downs (he did so Sunday after Mayo left with his injury), but because he sometimes doesn’t play in sub packages, the Patriots might consider other possibilities for that role.
The Patriots lost defensive captain Vince Wilfork to a season-ending torn Achilles on Sept. 29. That injury coupled with Mayo’s hit at the heart of the team’s much-improved defense.
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