FOXBORO, Mass. — After 13 seasons as a New England player, Devin McCourty is excited to take on a simpler role in retirement: Patriots fan.
McCourty, who was honored Tuesday in a ceremony at the Patriots Hall of Fame, said he’s looking forward to emphatically supporting — and critiquing — his former teammates when the 2023 season kicks off in September.
“I’m so excited to watch the game of football and root this team on and be one of those crazy, avid Patriot fans living in New Jersey and wearing my Pats gear,” the former New England safety said. “I never used to wear my Pats gear so people wouldn’t bother me, and now I’m so excited to wear all my gear so people hate me. I’m going to love every minute of that.”
That shift for McCourty began during the latest NFL postseason. Typically, when he’d watch games after the Patriots were eliminated, he’d feel only “anger” over the fact that his team was no longer playing. But this year, he found himself actually enjoying watching playoff football, even though New England was bounced in Week 18.
That feeling stuck with him and helped drive his ultimate decision to announce his retirement two months later.
“I never used to enjoy those things,” the three-time Super Bowl winner said. “I wanted to be that guy in those games. I wanted to be that team. … And when I started watching and looking at the other teams and being like, ‘That’s good. That’s cool to see them do that,’ that’s when I had a feeling like this was probably it.”
Though he won’t be living in New England, McCourty said he plans to make frequent returns — and to match the ferocious passion Patriots fans have for their team.
“I think this is a very unique place because when you play sports, they don’t really care as much about the entertainers and the other famous people,” McCourty said. “If they find out you play a sport for Boston sports, then you are one of a kind — they love you. I think one of the coolest things about being an athlete is the fans; they never go away. Now, I get to be a part of the community. I get to come back to games, and being in the stands, and tailgating, and all those things. So I’m excited to not really say goodbye to the fans but to be able to embrace the fans as a fan.
“Now, we’ll be equals. I have a little knowledge from playing, but I’ll get to be like those crazy guys. If Mac throws an interception, I’ll be cursing Mac (Jones) out on the field. If (Ja’Whaun Bentley) misses a tackle, I’ll be cursing Bent out. That’s what it’s going to be because now I’m just a fan. I’m not their teammate anymore. I’m a fan, so that means they have to play a perfect game. Mac has to have four touchdowns every game, 350 yards. That’s your expectation as a fan. I’m looking forward to Bent’s 150 tackles, five interceptions, three sacks and maybe two touchdowns.
“That’s what I need from him, and he’s probably mad that I said it. But I’m a fan now, so I’m excited to be a crazy New England Patriot fan. I’m going to give it all I got.”
Fans can expect to see a lot of McCourty once the season begins, too. Though he hasn’t lined up his next job just yet, the 35-year-old plans to follow his twin brother and former Patriots teammate Jason, now a host on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football,” into television. And he says he won’t pull punches when evaluating his former team on-air.
“I’m very excited for the first time Bill (Belichick) calls a bad call and I’m on TV and I’m just like, ‘I don’t know what he was thinking,'” a smiling McCourty said. “I’m excited for the first time that happens. Or for me to be like, ‘Man, I know Billy (O’Brien) and Steve (Belichick); I don’t know what they’re calling in this game.’ That’s the first thing I’m looking forward to doing on TV.”