NEW ORLEANS - Devin McCourty wasn't all that enthused about playing cornerback against the Saints on Saturday night.
"I hope it's not permanent," he said after the Patriots beat New Orleans in their second preseason game, 26-24. "As a player, that's out of your control."
McCourty was lauded by Patriots coach Bill Belichick for having a positive play early in the game when he broke up a would-be touchdown catch to fellow Rutgers product Brandon Coleman. It wasn't all highlights for McCourty as he got reps on the outside, however.
He allowed a short completion to talented second-year Saints wideout Brandin Cooks in the first quarter, and Cooks wiggled out of McCourty's grasp for a seven-yard gain. On the next Saints series, quarterback Drew Brees found Cooks again, this time deep down the field for a 45-yard score. McCourty did not appear to have Cooks in man coverage on the play, but Cooks got behind safety Duron Harmon.
Harmon was, of course, playing the role that has been assumed by McCourty in the Patriots defensive backfield for the last two-and-a-half seasons.
"It's the first time I've played corner in a game, I think, in like three years," McCourty said of moving back to the position he played for the first two full seasons of his NFL career, "so obviously it's a lot of frustration but you just gotta play."
He added: "It didn't feel great, and I don't think it looked great so we'll see."
McCourty has seen practice time at corner for the last week, but he made it clear this offseason that he considered himself a safety, and he said on Comcast SportsNet New England that it was his intention to stay there.
When Belichick was asked about McCourty's versatility earlier this week, he said that using players at various positions can help prepare them if an issue crops up during the regular season.
"Devin's been out here every day," Belichick said. "He's worked hard. He gives us a lot of leadership and a lot of versatility on our defense. He's done a good job, and we try to get a lot of players different . . . work them in different roles so when we eventually get to those during the season that they'll at least have some background in it."
Playing the cornerback position, McCourty made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2010. But during the 2012 season he transitioned to safety, and in 2013 he began the season at the back end of the Patriots secondary and thrived, being named a Second-Team All-Pro for his performance.
Last season, McCourty further established himself as one of the best in the league at his position while working alongside safety Patrick Chung and corners Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Since Revis and Browner have departed via free agency, there is some uncertainty at the cornerback position for the Patriots, and McCourty appears to have been added to what looks like a hazy picture in terms of the team's top options on the outside.
McCourty signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract in the offseason, making him the highest-paid safety in the NFL. He said after Saturday's game that he feels most comfortable at that spot.
"Obviously, I think any player you think you're a good player," he said. "I can't assess that. I think a lot of people have different opinions. I feel comfortable when I'm there, and I think I'm a decent player. But it doesn't matter if I'm not there, I guess."
Asked if he was frustrated by being moved around in the Patriots secondary, McCourty replied: "I really don't think it matters. You can't control where you play. Everyone's going to play in a position for the team. Overall that's what's best for the team. I don't think what you think or how you feel matters."