New England was already down 7-0 when it got its first chance with the football in Tampa.
Michael Koenen got ready to kick off for the Bucs. Jeff Demps, Olympic sprinter and new Patriot . . . Stayed on the sideline.
Devin McCourty, come on down.
"It's cool experience, a defensive guy getting a chance to get the ball in your hands," the cornerback told reporters Sunday. "I did it a couple times in preseason my rookie year."
McCourty's rookie returns were impressive.
In the team's first preseason game of 2010, he had two big runs against the Saints -- one for 52 yards, another for 50.
The effort shouldn't have been shocking. McCourty was a dynamic special teams player while at Rutgers, averaging 25.43 yards per kickoff return (he took one 98 yards for a touchdown) his senior year.
Of course, that was three years ago. And the old, "like riding a bike" idiom doesn't always translate well in the NFL.
"I wouldn't say it's that easy, but once you do it a couple times you get used to it," he said. "I think a lot of returners are just using what your have -- their skill set -- going out there and running hard. I know when I'm on kickoff team we go back there, just set everything up, and just hit it. When I go back there I try to do that and help those guys block and get the offense started."
The Patriots didn't get Jeff Demps to sit on the sideline, silver medal around his neck. But if McCourty gets the call during the regular season to return kicks, he won't mind one bit.
"Whatever coach Belichick decides to have me out there doing, I'm just going to take advantage of the opportunity."