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Devin McCourty hoping officials let up on throwing flags and let DBs ‘play a little bit’

08.19.14 at 9:21 pm ET
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Devin McCourty looks to lead the Patriots secondary with a hands-off approach this season (Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Football fans, Devin McCourty feels your pain.

He tried to watch Monday night’s game between the Browns and Redskins just like a fan. And like a fan, he found it really hard to not change the channel with the number of flags thrown, especially on defensive backs.

“I think as a DB, you’re trained to never to look for a flag,” McCourty said. “It’s makes them throw it more. But even [Monday] night, watching the game, it’s just seems like every couple of plays, there’s another flag. It’ll be tough for people trying to watch the game who have work in the morning and stuff like that.”

All joking aside, McCourty has the unique perspective of having started out as a cornerback before transitioning to safety full-time last season. He knows he won’t be able to get away with as much tugging so technique, even for a safety, will be key this season.

“I think it’s a little different but we have some of the same issues as far as how we’re covering guys, too, like guys coming off the line of scrimmage, things that you might have gotten away with you may not get away with [this season],” McCourty said. “But I think it’s hard to try and change your whole game. We don’t want to start to giving up long passes and touchdowns just to say, ‘I didn’t want illegal contact.’ Hopefully, they reduce the [number of] flags and we get to play a little bit.”

Bill Belichick never stops playing mad scientist with his secondary, like on Friday night against the Eagles, when he had Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan taking snaps at safety.

“I don’t it’s that much tougher,” McCourty said of watching and playing with new players rotating at safety. “I think a lot of it is putting your rules and what you do as a defense into what they’re doing so it’s just guys just talking about it and seeing stuff the same way and being on the same page. As long as you can do that, you just put your rules toward that.

“Anytime you get out in the game atmosphere and you’re playing, and the refs out there and playing together, I think that’s always key going into the season. It’s always better the first time when it’s live bullets. I always think it’s good to get some of the preseason reps in there and hopefully, we don’t see as many flags as we’ve been seeing this preseason throughout the game.”

McCourty said Tuesday that another newbie to the secondary – perennial All-Pro Darrelle Revis – looks very comfortable with the rest of the defensive backs.

“It’s been cool,” McCourty said. “He’s fit in pretty good. Communication has been going good. I just think as a unit, we’ve been taking the right steps each day, just trying to get better, working on things we’ve made mistakes on. I think that’s what’s been great about our unit. We haven’t made a lot of the same mistakes. When you can do that, it keeps giving you room to grow and get better as a unit. I think we just have to continue to do that as we head into the season.”

Another difference this week is preparation. The Patriots are practicing against themselves again, not the Redskins or Eagles. For McCourty and the defensive backs, it’s back to the traditional method of watching it in the classroom and then replicating on the field.

“You just have more conversations,” McCourty said. “It’s not as easy as playing it live. I think when you’re doing it at practice against a team, you can talk about it right there on the field. Sometimes, two guys can come off and say, ‘I saw this.’ Then I say, ‘This is what it really was.’ When you are in film [study], you might see something and think it’s similar but it might look a little different in two different games for one team so you just have to talk about it and make sure you get on the same page as far as how we want to see it going into the game.

“The first two weeks, I think the hard thing for the rookies is that you get used to practicing against a team and then going to play it’s a lot easier than trying to watch film, just going off scouting reports. That’s the biggest difference now is we actually really get into a regular season mode, as far as watching film together, trying to get things adjusted from film and go into the game that way. It’s starting to really get us prepared for the season.”

It’s not just McCourty getting back to the traditional methods. It’s Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. Those two pieces of the defense have been back on the field together this week after Mayo missed last week.

“It was just exciting to have him back out there,” McCourty said of Mayo. “I think they do a lot to help us as a defense and as a team. Everybody is excited. Two guys in the middle that plug things up, and having Mayo control everything just helps our defense out a lot.”

Maybe the most significant sign of the importance of the secondary is that McCourty and the defensive backs have kept their places in the locker room while others, like Vince Wilfork, Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater, among others, have been shifted.

“Shows our importance,” McCourty said, tongue firmly planted in cheek. “They came to us and we said we’re not moving, and they left us. Nah, I don’t know why they did that.”

Read More: 2014 training camp, Bill Belichick, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty
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