Devin McCourty said that if he was a football fan, he would probably think the Patriots, given the departure of Tom Brady, might not do well either.
Calling from his home via a conference call on Wednesday, the Patriots free safety spoke honestly about the critics saying that the Patriots will not be a successful team this year. With no Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy, and Stephen Gostkowski, McCourty understands why people would doubt the team. He’s seen the tweets saying the Patriots’ reign is over, but he’s not internalizing it.
His goals remain the same for next season.
“My goal, always is to win as many games as possible,” he said. “I don’t think we ever come in the season and think, Super Bowl Super Bowl Super Bowl. It’s about improving and winning games along the way. I think that will stay the same.”
McCourty says he can’t help but hear the outside chatter.
“You have a lot of time to be on Twitter and a lot of what I’ve seen is people tweeting me like, ‘Enjoy what you guys had, it’s over. You guys won’t win a game.’ So, I think that’s natural though. I think if I was a fan and I watched a team and I watched a guy for a long time, and he left and he was so great, I would say, ‘That team is going to be terrible, too.” It’s expected, but I think our job as players is to go out there and compete.”
McCourty, who recently announced that he is returning to the team after 10 seasons, understands the uncertainty surrounding the Patriots. Who will fill the quarterback position? Who will lead them? Does the defense have to “carry” them now?
"After 10 years and winning three Super Bowls, something inside was telling me that I was ready for a new challenge."
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) March 24, 2020
“We should want to be great no matter what,” said McCourty. “For years, we always got talked about as being the reason we lost games and how great Tom was, and I used to still say the same thing: as a defense, your goal always has to be when you take the field, to get turnovers, to dominate, get the offense back on the field. For us as a defense, that’s something that we need to do. Last year we didn’t go into the season and say, ‘We need to carry a team, we need to do this and that.’ We said, ‘We need to be as good as we can.’ Offense said the same thing, special teams said it, and you kind of see where you fall.”
He refuses to put pressure on quarterback Jarett Stidham, or to call him the next anything. Everyone has their own jobs to do.
“I don’t want to turn this call into where I deem Stidham the next greatest quarterback and put all that pressure on him,” said McCourty. “You know if I say something than it’s a headline. He’s a hard worker, he did a great job this year, I think of coming in and trying to compete, and including [Cody] Kessler – who gave us some good looks on different things. Both of those guys [have] great attitudes. I’m looking forward to those guys getting opportunities.”
That includes emerging as leaders, and whether it’s younger players, himself, or teammates like Matthew Slater and James White – everyone now has the chance to step up.
“I think our team as a whole, young guys that didn’t get a lot of opportunities last year, guys who got hurt — we have a couple guys like that, who now will be able to go out there for next year and have the opportunity to help the team in different ways.
“I know everyone is kind of like what’s going to happen, everything is brand new, but I don’t really see it like that. I see it as a continuing what we been doing and guys assuming the same leadership roles when you look at myself, [Matthew] Slater, Jules [Edelman], [Patrick] Chung and all those guys that have been there 10-plus years…I think guys naturally step into new roles. I think a guy like James White has been a leader on our team for years. He’s a guy that we always talk about follow him by what he does: he leads by example, his work ethic – every day he’s always in there working his butt off and doing the right thing.”
Given the serious concern over the COVID-19 epidemic, McCourty is not sure what the timing of training camp will look like. Still, he’s been trying to keep up with his training, which has been limited to indoor workouts and include riding on his Peloton machine (which he luckily ordered in February) and FaceTiming his trainer. More importantly, he’s been supporting his family and children, who could be heard in the background of the call, by staying home.
He feels that everyone, especially those with a social influence, should encourage each other to do the same. During uncertain and worrying times, leaders must now emerge in their own ways, too.
“Everyone in the medical field who are out on the front line, still going to work, dealing with the virus first hand, those are the true tough guys and I think as much as possible, anybody that has a following – social media, any type of chatter, just being honest with people. Staying at home, doing different things. I’m like everybody else: I have a three year old, a soon-to-be two year old driving me crazy running around yelling and screaming, but we all have to stay home. But, I think that’s something I admire guys going and talking about, something that me and [Jason McCourty] try and talk about.
“I think guys, females, everyone in sports and entertainers, even [the media] who have a big influence of people watching your shows and now, having something to watch and something to talk about. Hopefully as a country, and as a world, we can start to listen and get through this.”