The Patriots linebacker, who suffered an MCL injury less than two weeks ago, had been expected to miss four to six weeks. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Cowboys.
Mayo has bounced back quickly from a similar injury before, returning in 2009 after suffering a separate MCL injury. The Patriots have a bye next week, which means he could take the field against the Steelers on Oct. 30, exactly four weeks after suffering the injury against the Raiders.
The Patriots, last in the NFL in total defense at 433 yards per game, could use the defensive help. Mayo has 20 total tackles and a forced fumble in four games this season and is coming off a career-high 114-tackle, two-sack season.
But is Mayo's presence for one game worth risking a more serious injury that could sideline him for the remainder of the season? Pats head coach Bill Belichick and the team's training staff will weigh the risks and rewards in evaluating Mayo.