FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo probably will play again this season after hurting his right knee in the opener, welcome news for a team that lost Tom Brady for the 2008 season to a knee injury in the first game.
"I don't think that's what it is," New England coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday when asked if he could rule out Mayo's injury being season-ending.
Belichick, who rarely gives details or timetables for injuries, didn't go beyond that, leaving it unclear when Mayo, last year's NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, might return. He said additional information would be in Wednesday's post-practice injury report.
He declined to address a report last week that Mayo hurt his left shoulder in the fourth game last season. Mayo played all 16 games and led the Patriots with 139 tackles.
He began calling defensive signals late in the season and his significance to the defense increased this year after outside linebacker Mike Vrabel was traded to Kansas City and inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi retired.
Mayo was hurt Monday night with just over four minutes left in the first quarter of the Patriots' 25-24 win over the Buffalo Bills. Brady brought them back from an 11-point deficit with two touchdown passes to Benjamin Watson in the fourth quarter.
Mayo lasted longer than Brady did in last year's opener, a 17-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. The quarterback tore ligaments in his left knee with 7:33 gone in the quarter.
It was a tough opening weekend for top linebackers. Buffalo's Paul Posluszny broke his arm Monday night but isn't expected to miss the whole season. On Sunday night, Chicago's Brian Urlacher had a season-ending wrist injury.
Belichick said in a conference call that the Patriots are prepared to stick with their game plan when injuries strike.
"We go into every game with the entire team understanding that we have to have somebody to replace somebody else at every position," he said.
After Mayo was hurt, the Patriots relied more on a 4-3 alignment than a 3-4, leaving starting inside linebacker Gary Guyton as the middle linebacker.
"Everybody kind of learns a couple different spots," defensive coordinator Dean Pees said Tuesday. "It is hard when a guy hasn't practiced that position all week. But for the most part they understand what to do. It's just a matter of recognition."
New England's offense sputtered for much of the game, taking time to settle into the regular season. Randy Moss said he was nervous but still made 12 catches for 141 yards.
"There's no way to simulate game speed on opening day on a practice field or in preseason," Belichick said. "Hopefully, we'll be able to improve ... and, I think, to some extent we did during the course of the game."
New England faces another AFC East opponent when it visits the New York Jets on Sunday.
"I think that's all not really that relevant," said Belichick, who led the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles this decade. "The most important thing to us is we're playing a division game on the road.
"However you want to say that -- put it in capital letters or put it in italics or phrase it however you want to phrase it -- I think division games are big games on our schedule and playing them on the road, those are huge."
Ryan said in a radio interview in June that he didn't come to New York "to kiss Bill Belichick's rings."
On Tuesday, Belichick was asked if anyone had ever kissed his rings.
He paused before answering.
"Uh," Belichick said, "I don't think so."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press