Patriots' McCourty on the prospects of playing football: 'I think we all have fears.'
Unlike most of his Patriots teammates, Jason McCourty has been a frequent visitor to Gillette Stadium during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He's been able to go into the locker room, hang out, and duck away from being quarantined at home.
That's the benefit of being a player who's rehabbing from an injury from late last season. He's allowed to go to work, in the actual building, and spend time with other teammates coming back from injury. For McCourty, that part of the offseason hasn't changed.
The veteran cornerback, and twin brother of safety Devin McCourty, enjoys being able to help the younger players and new players in their virtual meetings. That's the part he loves.
The part he hates?
Not being able to truly bond with any of them.
"I think that's the part that (expletive) right now," he said during a video conference Wednesday. "We don't get a chance to — obviously, we have our virtual meetings — but you don't get a chance to be in the building, get to know the new guys and catch up on what's gone on in the offseason and really kind of build that chemistry right now."
Still, McCourty has treated it very much as business as usual to this point. The COVID-19 protocols for NFL teams have become the new normal. But it's still an adjustment.
"I look at it as it's the NFL. I mean, obviously what's going on without an offseason is a challenge and something that's going on globally. That's something that everybody is being forced to deal with," he said. "But as far as the things to the team, as far as offensive changes, defensive changes — to me, that's just part of the NFL. There's not one year to the next that you don't go through a number of changes, whether it's personnel, whether it's coaching, whether it's scheme. There's always going to be something from one season to the next that's going to be a challenge, that's going to have change, that's going to force people to step up, force different roles on people.
"I think that's the unique thing about our league is each year is a new opportunity for anybody to step up and make something of themselves."
But while his rehab process seems "normal" to him, that's about to change down the road. And with that change, players will have to make decisions.
Once everyone is allowed to return, and the league inches closer to playing football, players will want to address any safety issues and concerns. McCourty believes when the time comes, players will figure out what's best for them.
To this point, everything has been similar to or in accordance with what's going on across the country, especially given the small number of players who are doing rehab with McCourty. Getting ready for football in earnest is another step.
"(Right now), it's not anything that is different than anything that's going on throughout our country. You go to the grocery store, everyone has on a mask, has on gloves. You can't go to a gas station without someone doing the same. I think in that regard, it's been normal to the practices that have gone on throughout every community," said McCourty. "I think moving forward, I think we all have fears. I think for me, the fear of going back to work is no different than the fear of walking in a restaurant and sitting down to have dinner.
"So, I think this is something that we're all going to have to deal with," he went on. "At some point, we're going to start back up, Massachusetts and every other state around the country, and some in the South have already begun to open up. So, I think as players, we're going to go through the same fears that a lot of other people in our country are going to go through. You're going to have to figure it out the best way.
"When they tell us to come back to work, we have to as individuals make sure, 'Hey, to my standard, I feel that this is safe enough. I'm ready to commit to it. I'm ready to do it.' If not, you've got to go about whatever you feel is best for your family."
McCourty underwent surgery to help repair the groin injury that sidelined him for most of the second half of the season. He indicated he's feeling good with respect to the injury.
"I'm just taking it step by step. Obviously, with everything going on, it's been a process where there's nothing to rush back to because you can't see anything in the very near future," he said. "There's no practice to look forward to, there's no minicamp to look forward to, so I'm feeling pretty good and just working every day to get better."
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