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“I’m not going to guess at” how long Mayo will be sidelined, Belichick said.

Gary Guyton, a four-year veteran, was Mayo’s primary replacement. Ridley was Woodhead’s. The rookie even feels comfortable catching passes, one of Woodhead’s strengths.

“Every back’s got to be able to go in there and pull each other’s load when one of us goes down,” Ridley said.

That’s true for every position. At right tackle, rookie Nate Solder, a first-round pick, has played well in place of injured Sebastian Vollmer on a line that has new starters at three spots.

“It just seems like that offensive line has been together for a good while, with the green grass that I’m seeing when I’m coming through the line,” Ridley said. “Tom always does a great job in the passing game and our receivers are blocking downfield as well as making the catches. So, really, our offense is complimenting each other.”

Linebacker Dane Fletcher, who made the team as a rookie free agent last year, is filling in on defense and offense. He should get more playing time at linebacker while Mayo recovers and has gotten plays at fullback, a job Belichick sprung on him not long ago.

“Maybe he said it like the first game or that game week,” Fletcher said. “They tell me to go run my face into some people, I’ll do it.”

One of his blocks helped Green-Ellis score on a 1-yard run midway through the second quarter when the Patriots went ahead 14-10.

It didn’t take Fletcher much time to learn his new duties.

“I don’t have as many things as Brady has going on in his head,” he said.

So anything Brady’s teammates can do to pick up the slack for him _ like moving the ball on the ground _ should help.

Even if it comes from a rookie playing just his fourth pro game.

“I really wouldn’t say I pick up the load for Tom because Tom’s got a big load on his shoulders,” Ridley said. “When they call my number, just make a play and make a positive play at that. So I’m just a rookie right now.

“And I’m still just learning.”