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Wheatley getting physical, proving worth

08.11.10 at 12:41 pm ET
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Don't count Terrence Wheatley out just yet. (AP photo)

Don't count Terrence Wheatley out just yet. (AP photo)

FOXBORO — When the Patriots selected Devin McCourty with the 27th overall pick of April’s NFL draft, one of the first questions that sprung up across the minds of New England fans everywhere was just how long it would be before Terrence Wheatley was sent packing.

A second-round pick back in 2008, Wheatley never emerged as a top cornerback in either of his first two seasons in the NFL, but not necessarily due to ability. The Colorado product battled injuries as a rookie and after healing from problems with his wrist, dressed for just five games last season in totaling two tackles.

Wheatley isn’t the most physical guy, but he has the quickness that would suggest he would be an interesting option for teams should he get cut by the Pats.

Yet as the chatter continues that Wheatley, like Jonathan Wilhite, could be destined to be a castoff, the now third-year man has played well in training camp and has certainly shown a side to him that hid from onlookers in years past. For starters, he’s looked good in coverage and made a nice reading Drew Brees Tuesday and picking off a pass intended for receiver Courtney Roby.

“It was a coverage that allows me to read a quarterback and that’s just what I did,” Wheatley said. “I saw the ball being thrown, I just made the play, and ultimately that’s what I’m here to do, is make plays, so that’s what I did.”

Aside from reading plays and showing coverage skills, Wheatley has been far more aggressive this camp, which was rather blatant on Wednesday. In addition to getting into a scuffle with Saints defensive back Leigh Torrence on a punt return, Wheatley absolutely took out New Orleans receiver Montez Billings shortly thereafter.

Given his speed and new affinity for more physical play, Wheatley has seen plenty of time as a gunner on special teams, which could boost his worth in the eyes of the coaches.

“I think it’s important not just for me, but for everybody,” Wheatley said. “The more stuff you can do, the better chance you have of making the team, so whatever they want me to, that’s what I’m going to do.”

The way the stable of cornerbacks currently looks, one would have to think that Leigh Bodden and Darius Butler have secured the starting positions, with McCourty being at least the nickel early on. Things get interesting from there, however, as Wheatley’s camp thus far could earn him time in dime situations or as a guy who spells the starters.

Despite his encouraging summer, Wheatley said that reporters are better off asking Bill Belichick how he’s looked so far because he finds little use in self-assessment. Still, with his career off to a very slow start, Wheatley can understand that this could be his last camp in New England.

“Time for excuses is over. I’m just going to go out and relax, have fun, and whatever happens, happens,” Wheatley said. “The one thing that I’ve learned is I’ve got to take it day by day and not get too high and not get too low.”

Injuries and inconsistency are generally the two key ingredients in in many stories of short-lived NFL careers. Wheatley, who has a lot to prove, seems to still have a lot to give. If there’s a chance that he is like many draft picks before him that never panned out, Wheatley isn’t thinking about it.

“If that is the situation, me thinking about it day and night isn’t going to change it,” Wheatley said of potentially being cut. “I’m just out here playing, playing hard, and at the end of the day, it’s not my call.”

Read More: Devin McCourty, Terrence Wheatley, training camp,
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