FOXBORO, Mass. — It's going to take a full-scale defensive effort for the Patriots to make up for the absence of cornerback Devin McCourty if he can't play Monday against the Chiefs, and they're taking that businesslike approach through the weekend.
McCourty returned to practice Saturday after missing the first three sessions of the week with a shoulder injury that caused him to leave MetLife Stadium in a sling. That doesn't necessarily mean McCourty will be ready to go against the Chiefs, but it should plant the idea in the minds of Kansas City's offensive players.
The Patriots have done this before, whether on purpose or not. Linebacker Jerod Mayo returned to practice the Friday before the Cowboys game but didn't play, and safety Patrick Chung did the same prior to last week's game against the Jets.
If McCourty can't go, cornerback Kyle Arrington will take on more of a responsibility as the team's top cornerback, while Antwaun Molden and Phillip Adams might combine to take some of McCourty's responsibilities.
"I just go out there and do my job, do what's expected of me," Arrington said. "We're all out there, we've played enough games now into the season. We're all experienced — some more than others — but we all have enough games under our belt to go out there and do what's asked of us."
Molden, who was benched against the Steelers earlier this season, plays more on the outside, while Adams has taken on more of a role as the nickel back in the slot. Sterling Moore, who started last week at safety, could also add more depth at his true position as a cornerback.
Regardless of how the playing time is divvied up, the Patriots know they can't throw a pity party for themselves if McCourty can't play. The Chiefs certainly won't care, so the Patriots have to make sure they take it up a notch.
"Guys have to seize the opportunity," safety James Ihedigbo said. "Dev is a phenomenal player. Whatever the case is — I can't speak for someone else — but if he's up, he's playing, he's going to be flying around there and making plays. If a guy has to step up then a guy has to step up. That's how it is in this league."