INDIANAPOLIS — Big things have been expected of linebacker Jerod Mayo since the New England Patriots drafted him out of Tennessee with the 10th pick of the 2008 NFL draft.

And he hasn’t disappointed.

Mayo has been the Patriots leading tackler in each of his four NFL seasons, this year heading the team with 103 tackles despite missing two games with an injury.

And now, on a defense with standout lineman Vince Wilfork, he is the unquestioned leader of the group.

“The game runs through him,” said coach Bill Belichick on Thursday, a rare individual testimonial.

Belichick praised just about everything in Mayo’s game, noting his speed, range and ability to recognize plays. But he was especially pleased with Mayo’s leadership skills, something that he didn’t necessarily display in college.

“He really is one of our leaders on the team and that would start the first day of our off-season program and end the last day of our season,” said Belichick. “He sets the pace. He will be the first one there and the last one to leave.”

The 6-foo1, 245-pound Mayo shrugs off the compliment, much like he shrugs off blockers.

“To be honest with you, I just try to lead by example,” he said. “It’s not like I try to go out here and be, like, ‘These are the qualities that I need to have to go out and lead these guys.’ I just try to go out there and work hard each and every day and do my job and the guys just follow that.”

Those are traits he learned growing up in a military home. His grandfather was a chief master sergeant in the Air Force. His sister serves in the military now.

Not surprisingly, Mayo is also leading the team in tackles in the playoffs, with 21 in two games. He knows the Patriots face a severe test in Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants, a team — like the Patriots — with a prolific passing game, but also one that has the ability to play a power running game.

“You have to try to take something away,” said Mayo, who came in the year after the Patriots lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. “I’m not sure what you try to take away. I guess you have to pick your poison. The way Eli (Manning) is playing right now, he’s making all the right choices. The running backs are running hard.”

Belichick is just happy he has Mayo calling the defensive plays.

“We value his ability to stay calm under cover, make good decisions, communicate well, be totally prepared and physically be able to do everything a linebacker needs to do,” said Belichick.

He added that, “It’s never about him. It’s always about what’s best for the team. What makes him so well-respected in the locker room and on our football team is how committed he is to the entire team.”

* * *

Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be wearing a revolutionary chin strap — the Impact Indicator — designed to detect the probability of concussions.

The chinstrap is designed to measure the G-force and duration of hits to the head. Software is embedded in the chinstrap to signal the possibility of a head injury.

It will alert officials, players and coaches when to take a player off the field for a medical assessment.

“When I get hit and get an impact level that comes back like a concussion … and my chin strap is blinking or something, people on the sideline have to take me through the tests,” he said. “It’s just something that can assist coaches and trainers.”

* * *

Madonna made quite a splash in her press conference for the Super Bowl halftime show. She’s the featured entertainment, though she hinted there would be some surprises.

From the moment she stepped onto the stage in a packed ballroom to the sound of her own music, cameras clicked and flashed, entertainment reporters gasped.

She promised there wouldn’t be any wardrobe malfunction, a reference to Janet Jackson’s ill-fated slip in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and said she would sing three old songs and one new one.

“I am so excited to be here and incredibly nervous,” she said. “This is a Midwestern girl’s dream to be performing the Super Bowl halftime show.”

Then she proceeded to answer questions, some legit — asking how she prepared physically for the show — some, eh, not so. At one point, she simply said, “This is embarrassing.”


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