FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty is a safety.
It has been his position since he transitioned there during the 2012 season. He was named a Second-Team All-Pro as a safety in 2013, and it was from that spot in 2014 that he helped turn a talented but newly-assembled secondary into a Super Bowl champion. He's also paid like a top-of-the-market safety after re-signing with the Patriots this offseason for a deal worth $47.5 million over five years.
But might McCourty be asked to play cornerback sometime in the very near future for the Patriots? Perhaps.
With corner Tarell Brown ruled out for Sunday's game with the Colts due to a foot injury, the Patriots will have to come up with a contingency plan built around their relatively small cornerback group.
After Malcolm Butler (271 snaps this season), Brown (163 snaps) is the Patriots corner who has seen the most playing time despite sitting out of a Week 3 win over the Jaguars. Without him, the Patriots will likely lean heavily on third-year corner Logan Ryan and undrafted rookie Justin Coleman. The team could also turn to waiver-wire addition Rashaan Melvin, who arrived to Gillette Stadium on Wednesday and has two practices under his belt with his new team.
McCourty gives the team a potential fifth option at corner. The former first-round pick came into the league as a cornerback and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors there as a rookie in 2010. He saw practice reps at corner during training camp this summer and played as a corner against the Saints in New England's second preseason game.
At the time, he said he hoped it wasn't a permanent move, and it wasn't. He's been at safety ever since that game at the Superdome.
However, when the Patriots experimented with McCourty at corner in camp, coach Bill Belichick explained that getting McCourty some work at a different position was a way to provide the team with depth. Belichick was, essentially, preparing McCourty and the rest of the secondary for an unforeseen emergency.
Brown's absence for a Week 6 game against the Colts and their deep group of receivers may qualify as an unforeseen emergency.
McCourty said on Friday that it would be hard to predict how comfortable he would be at corner if he was asked to play there in Indianapolis on Sunday night.
"You won't know until you get out there," he said. "Obviously, it's good to get work, but football players are like anybody else. Something you do months ago doesn't always just translate like it's riding a bike. That's just not true. You go out there and you just play. But I'm like anybody else -- anybody that switches or does something a little different. You're good at what you're good at. Other things, you just continue to work through it."
McCourty did not get into whether or not he has practiced at corner this week. He insisted that even if he had, his game-day comfort level there would be impossible to gauge until the bright lights were on.
"I only count game reps," he said. "No matter what happens, it's different. When you're out there for a game, it's completely different. When you're out there guarding someone and they're game-planning and trying to win, it's completely different."