All-Pro safety Devin McCourty stressed that “the new physical Patriots defense” might just be a manufactured storyline.
“You got a bunch of new guys out there, everyone wants to write a new story about a new secondary, a new D, but you can pull up tape from each year of training camp since I’ve been here,” McCourty said Friday night after training camp practice. “You’ve seen guys out there getting physical, guys getting in little scuffles. I remember one year, we had three fights in a row and Bill (Belichick) had us running around the field. It’s nothing new. It’s training camp.”
The Patriots could carry over as many as eight starters from the 2013 season this year, so the defense isn’t entirely new, but adding players like Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner will change the perception of that unit. They already are looking better than the 2013 version. Now, the Patriots defense just needs to stay healthy.
“I’m excited by the defense,” McCourty said. “I just feel — going into our second week, you’re starting to see, not just individual but a unit being formed on defense. It’s exciting. That’s what you hope training camp is — to get ready for the season.”
McCourty will be a big part of the Patriots’ success on defense in 2014, and former New England safety Rodney Harrison stressed before Friday’s practice session that the fifth-year player has to embrace his role as a vocal leader as he enters a contract year.
“Devin McCourty has to step up and be that leader — I know it’s his contract year. Instead of just worrying about money, he has to take over that secondary as a safety,” Harrison said Friday night after Ty Law’s Patriots Hall of Fame ceremony. “Cornerback is really relegated to one side of the field — safety sees the entire field.
“So, Devin McCourty, I expect him to come out and say ‘Hey, you guys are new. I know everyone’s excited about you,’ but have professional pride and say ‘This is my secondary. You guys come here, I’m gonna get everyone lined up and we’re gonna get it done.'”
Harrison, one of the best safeties to ever play in the NFL, believes that McCourty is a good enough leader to do that, even with an experienced secondary around him.
“I just think he has to step outside his comfort zone,” Harrison said. “And sometimes that’s what it takes. Sometimes it takes to get in Darrelle Revis’ face, but I don’t think he has to do that. Because I think Darrelle is a natural leader, and he’s gonna show up and be a pro every day.”