BOSTON — Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty has experienced lots of change during his 11-year NFL career.
It’s why he didn’t try to hide his enthusiasm, posting a screaming image of himself on Twitter in March, when New England picked up the team option on the final season of the two-year, $10 million contract he signed in 2019.
It’s also the reason the 32-year-old says he’s stayed focused during an abnormal offseason as he works his way back from a groin injury that limited him to 12 games last season.
While the NFL continues to bar NFL coaching staffs and most players from team facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, Commissioner Roger Goodell gave the league’s 32 clubs the go-ahead for limited reopenings last week. But only players undergoing injury rehabilitation are allowed to return during the first phase of the league’s plan.
McCourty, who had surgery on his groin in January, fits that criteria and is making the most of the access. He said the strangeness of being one of a very few players inside the Patriots’ facility has worn off.
“What constitutes as weird has dramatically changed throughout the last few months,” he said during a conference call Wednesday. “We’ve been in it so long that this has become rather normal to us at this point.”
After winning a Super Bowl ring during his first season with New England in 2018, McCourty established himself as a key contributor in the secondary alongside his twin brother and longtime Patriots safety Devin McCourty.
McCourty was productive in the first 10 games of the 2019 season with 39 tackles, an interception and five pass breakups. But he was bothered by the groin injury during the latter part of the year, appearing in only two of New England’s final six games and playing just eight defensive snaps.
He said he’s feeling good following his surgery and is taking his rehab “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.”
A projected starter in 2020, Jason McCourty said he is preparing for his 12th season in the league feeling fortunate to have played for so long for three teams. He hasn’t thought about how much longer he wants to keep playing.
“As long as it’s fun and physically and mentally I’m willing and able to do it,” he said. “I think that’s the big thing.”
He acknowledged concerns about returning to the field during the ongoing pandemic, but said it’s a decision every player must make for himself.
“I think moving forward, I think we all have fears,” McCourty said. “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.
“At some point, we’re going to start back up. … 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.”