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TAMPA — Gerald McCoy makes no secrets about his admiration for Tom Brady, and this week, he let it be known that he’s quite fond of Bill Belichick, as well.
“I don’t get nervous around a lot of people,” the Buccaneers defensive lineman said. “He was walking through the hall earlier and I was walking to the locker room . . . I dang near turned around the other way like, ‘Dang, I don’t want to look this man in his eye.’
“There’s something about him. He has a presence about him and I liked it. I like that [hoodie] that he wears.”
McCoy has yet to develop into the player the Buccaneers thought they were getting when they drafted him third overall in 2010. The former Oklahoma star has played just 19 games, missing time both seasons because of a torn biceps.
That struggle and the concerns of fans have led to McCoy stifling his personality with the Tampa media. But get him talking about Brady and Belichick and he’s a quote machine.
Last season, when the Patriots came to Tampa Bay in the preseason and beat the Buccaneers, 31-14, McCoy was flabbergasted by the speed with which Brady ran the no-huddle offense.
At the time, McCoy said, “[Defensive end Adrian] Clayborn came up to me and was like, ‘Oh my God, it was so fast!’ I said, ‘I know! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!’
“Man, I’m telling you, man, they came out, they turn around, huddle, snap, oh, ‘There’s the Mike [linebacker], go!’ I was like, ‘Dang, um, Mr. Brady, can we line up?’ He didn’t care. He was like, ‘You’re not going to line up.’ ”
There was no “Mr. Brady” for McCoy this week on the practice field. He called the joint practices competitive and fun. But he and his teammates can still learn from Brady.
“Because of our leader, Coach [Greg] Schiano, our focus level has changed completely when we’re at practice and he doesn’t let us not focus and lock it in to what we have to do during practice,” McCoy said Thursday. “But when you watch a team the caliber of the Patriots, it kind of opens your eyes to a lot of things you didn’t know.
“Tom Brady, his focus was just different. It’s literally like once he crossed those white lines, he went into a trance, and once he stepped back off and he wasn’t on the field anymore, he came out of it. That’s just where we need to get.
“He’s not who he is just because. He’s put in all the work and he does it. He’s never satisfied and you can see it out there when he’s practicing.”
Schiano also believed that seeing Brady work was a positive experience for his players.
“Any time you get a guy like Tom Brady out there, a Hall of Famer who is going up and down the field, it’s great for our defense,” he said. “It’s just different. I enjoyed watching Tom Brady and the way he handled himself in the huddle.
“When you play them, you don’t get to see that. When you stand on the field and hear the way he handles things, that’s good stuff.”
Defensive tackle Kyle Love and the Patriots agreed to a one-year contract extension this week to keep him in New England through the 2013 season. Love was a bit reluctant to talk about the deal, but did say Thursday that he feels good about it.
“I’m glad it happened and I’m happy to play here however long they need me,” he said.
Starting his third season, Love is projected as the second tackle alongside Vince Wilfork. Last year, he played in all 19 games, with 16 starts. The coaching staff credited him with 55 tackles and three sacks.
“I feel like I’m doing pretty good. I feel like I’ve got a little bit more to go,” Love said. “Never want to be settled with just being good, I want to be better, so I feel like I just get better every day and keep working hard and just trying to get better and better.”
He also targeted pass rushing as an area where he needs to improve.
McCourty in good position
Devin McCourty is coming off a disappointing sophomore season, but cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer believes he might be primed for a bounce-back year.
“Devin’s worked extremely hard,’’ said Boyer. “He’s had a very good camp for us. He’s put himself in a position to have some success and make some plays. Only time will tell where that comes up, but he’s worked very hard.’’
McCourty has not missed a practice and has been lined up at left cornerback with the top defensive unit throughout camp.
Just looking, thanks
Wes Welker and Ross Ventrone were T-shirt-wearing observers for Thursday’s shells-and-shorts session. They joined Jabar Gaffney, Patrick Chung, Gerard Warren, Tracy White, Visanthe Shiancoe, and Matt Kopa plus PUP list members Markus Zusevics, Jake Ballard, and Myron Pryor on the absentee list . . . Of Jeff Demps’s first practice as a Patriot, Belichick said it looked “like it was his first practice. He has a long way to go.” . . . The Patriots presented Buccaneers receiver Tiquan Underwood his AFC championship ring Wednesday. “They said if they would have won the Super Bowl, I would have gotten one, and obviously if we lost, I’d get the AFC ring,” said Underwood. “They kept their word and I appreciate that.” . . . The Patriots’ exhibition finale vs. the Giants at MetLife Stadium Wednesday will start 30 minutes earlier, at 7 p.m.