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McCourty hitting the books, learning on the fly

08.01.10 at 1:08 pm ET
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FOXBORO — There are a number of different paths one can take to the NFL. Whether it be as an undrafted free agent-turned practice squad guy-turned special teamer or as a high profile first-round pick, there are plenty of ways to end up playing with the big boys.

Once training camp begins however, there is something to be said for all previous accolades, accomplishments, or struggles going out the window. Defensive back Devin McCourty seems to be getting a sense of that in his first training camp. A fast riser in the pre-draft process, the Rutgers product was chosen by the Patriots with the 27th overall pick, adding him to a stable of cornerbacks that included veteran Leigh Bodden and second-year man (and fellow Big East corner) Darius Butler.

Now that McCourty is under contract and a few days into training camp, things like draft position and signing bonuses become more and more irrelevant with each passing day, while learning a new playbook and adjusting to NFL receivers takes the forefront.

“Probably by the first training camp [at Rutgers], I kind of understood that whole playbook, so that was kind of it,” McCourty said of the adjustments made in understanding Bill Belichick’s scheme. “I didn’t have to study as much, just learning more about personnel and everything, but now it’s trying to learn personnel and learning a bigger playbook.”

Though McCourty appears to have a very high ceiling and was likely the best tackling corner in a draft that saw seven defensive backs go in the first round, his selection wasn’t viewed as the team addressing a huge need. With Bodden and Butler in tow, McCourty doesn’t need to necessarily be one of the top two guys on the depth chart. Having a veteran like Bodden and a someone who is just a year removed from the rookie process should be extremely beneficial for the youngster, who has also sought the advice of the other corners.

“Leigh, Darius, Jon [Wilhite], [Terrence] Wheatley , and Kyle [Arrington], all those guys have been here,” McCourty said. “Anything I can learn from each one of them I try to use it.

“Each defense and each drill we kind of do is like a new technique, so there’s always a little something that they can just tell you from experience.”

The above-mentioned personnel, given McCourty’s position, may prove to be just as difficult as learning a new playbook for the defensive back. His assignments in training camp have already included covering Randy Moss, who didn’t waste much time in beating the rookie in the end zone for a touchdown. Rather than getting frustrated with being just another name on the list of corners Moss has beaten, McCourty looks at his competition in practice as a blessing in the name of his development.

“I guess you could say that lining up against Randy Moss — I mean you line up against that guy and you know you’re going against one of the best. Just lining up against him day in and day out is just going to get me better as a player. … You go against a guy that good and you’re really prepared to go against anyone in this league.”

The learning doesn’t end with Moss, however. For McCourty, any action against the receivers on the Patriots’ roster is a step in the right direction.

“Every time you line up — everyone talks about Randy Moss — but when you line up against any of those guys at wide receiver, you’re going against the best receivers in the world, really, so it’s a big step up competitively. … When you get to go against the best, you have no choice to get better.”

So after some time with the book, defensive backs, and some competition across the line of scrimmage, is McCourty comfortable yet?

“I won’t go that far,” McCourty said with a laugh, almost overwhelmed by the notion. “I’m still learning.”

Read More: Devin McCourty, training camp,
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