With longtime veteran Devin McCourty announcing his retirement on Friday, it ends a pretty incredible run for the former Rutgers defensive back.
Bill Belichick shared his thoughts on McCourty’s decision, with Belichick noting how the veteran raised the bar for everyone he played with.
“It is a rare group of players who win games at a historic rate, exude team culture, lead, win awards, and win championships,” said Belichick in a statement. “And then there is Devin McCourty. Devin did all of those things as a player and more. But, what I think of first when I think of Devin is the type of man he is, his character, his values and how high he raised the bar for spreading goodness and justice in the community. For 13 years, Devin made everyone in our organization feel better and be better because of who he is – a pillar of professionalism, unselfishness, work ethic, preparation, intelligence and performance. I am excited to see him bring those same traits to his next chapter and brighten the lives of even more people.”
The former 2010 first-round pick was originally drafted as a cornerback out of Rutgers with the New England Patriots’ 27th overall selection and got off to a terrific start, finishing with seven interceptions in his rookie season, which tied him for second in the league with Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu and Philadelphia’s Asante Samuel. Baltimore safety Ed Reed led the NFL with eight on the year.
But McCourty had a difficult time following that performance up in his sophomore season. He finished the 2011 campaign with just two picks but struggled in coverage while also dealing with a shoulder injury. After another difficult start in 2012, he transitioned to free safety and started his first game there against the Jets on October 21st of that season.
That outing ended up being both the start of a new chapter and an exciting one for the third-year player. He finished that game with a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, as McCourty had shared the duties that year with then-teammate, Danny Woodhead.
However, it wasn’t all perfect that day as McCourty also had a fumble late in the contest at the Jets’ 18yd line, which New York took advantage of as kicker Nick Folk, who was then a member of the Jets, hit the 43-yard kick to give the Jets a 26-23 edge with 1:32 left to go in the game.
Fortunately, Tom Brady and the offense went 54-yards on 6-plays and Stephen Gostkowski knotted the score at 26-26 to force overtime and the Patriots went on to win the game 29-26.
“Well, you know with Chung and Gregory both out, we felt like we had to do something there at safety,” said Belichick after the game. “Devin’s got some experience back there, I thought he did a pretty solid job from what I could see – we’ll take a little closer look at it. But I thought the deep part of the field was more secure than it’s been, so that was good. The kickoff return was a big play, got us going. He’s a solid guy, does a good job for us, whatever he’s asked to do – he does a good job for us.”
New England eventually acquired Aqib Talib midseason to shore up their secondary and McCourty remained in that role for the rest of his tenure.
He tallied 35 interceptions over the course of his career, hitting the 30 mark in November of 2021 against the Falcons.
McCourty had been floating the retirement idea last offseason, but signed a one-year, $9-million contract last March to come back for one more season.
Overall, he finishes his career having tallied 914 tackles (688 solo), along with 35 interceptions. He also went out on a relative high note, finishing with four picks in 2022, the third-highest total of his career while tying him for the team lead with Jonathan Jones, who also had four last season.
“It has been a great ride,” McCourty said in an Instagram post with his brother, Jason McCourty. “I’ve got the opportunity to talk to Mr. (Robert) Kraft, to talk to Bill (Belichick), a lot of the guys on the defensive staff. Unbelievable ride, man and I think it’s always tough to kind of come to the end, as you know.”
“This whole offseason has been so much back and forth for me mentally, probably not even sharing as much of the thoughts that I was just going between from one day to the next day. But ultimately, I think this is the best decision for me, my family, for my career, is to be able to now look back at my 13 years and just enjoy it.”
Best of luck to McCourty as he begins the next stage of his life, and good luck to the Patriots, who now face the challenge of finding the “next guy” to fill quite a leadership void heading into next season.
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