FOXBOROUGH ó Devin McCourty wants to shut down any talk about contract squabbling right now, before it even begins to fester.
The Patriots safety and defensive captain is entering his fifth season and the end of his rookie contract. He has a $3.92 million base salary and can expect a nice bump in a contract extension after establishing himself as one of the top players in the league at his position. His agent reportedly had a dialogue with the team in the offseason about an extension, but so far nothing has come to fruition.
With the start of camp, McCourty dismissed any notion that things will change for him in a contract year.
"No, you just play football," he said. "Contract year isnít what everyone else talks about. For a player, itís just another year in the league. For me, itís my fifth year in the league. I still want to get better. I think like Ninko (Rob Ninkovich) was saying, as you get older and year-by-year, you just want to continue to get better using what youíve learned mentally and get better physically. Luckily for me, Iím not as old as Ninko. Heís 30, so I still have time to improve physically and get bigger, faster and stronger."
Unlike his contract, McCourty did have quite a bit to say about his teammates, some of whom will be fighting for a place on the roster like Tavon Wilson.
Wilson has played sparingly for the Patriots, falling in and out of favor with the coaches over his two seasons in New England. But this has been a big offseason for him, according to McCourty.
"Yeah, Iím excited for him," he said. "I think sometimes guys get killed from the outside view and theyíre still putting in the work. Thatís why Iím excited. Tavon never budged at any second and just got down on himself and stopped working. This offseason in the spring time heís been working incredibly hard just to get out there and play more. I think thatís his focus, just to get better as a football player and helping the team as much as possible, so itís an exciting time for him coming into training camp.
"Each year guys come in and itís a new year," he said. "You have new opportunities, new chances to get out there and play more. Heís just one of those guys that have come in here and I think heís put himself in pretty good position to come in here and compete and try to get on the field."
The same for Duron Harmon, McCourty said, whose prospects are quite higher than Wilson's. Harmon is expected to compete for the starting safety position opposite of McCourty.
"From the spring time until now going into training camp, heís pushed himself, heís done everything he could do just to be in this position and get himself a chance to be on the field as well," McCourty said.
With so much new blood on the team, particularly in the secondary, and high expectations from both outside and inside the team, McCourty cautioned against feeling these Patriots were exceptional.
"Weíll see. I like to think itís special now but I think every year going in that we have a special secondary and a special group on defense, so I think right now we have a bunch of guys who want to work hard," he said. "The younger guys want to learn as much as possible from the older guys and the older guys want to lead. When you have that good mix of guys trying to show each other and guys trying to learn, everyone just going out there and working hard, you have a chance to be very good. Starting now we just have to put in the work and see where it lands. We canít think too far ahead and think of what the possibilities are, but just go out there and get after it."