Patriots

Devin McCourty has bigger concerns than NFL shortening preseason

Devin McCourty has bigger concerns than NFL shortening preseason

The NFL reportedly is taking action in the face of the coronavirus pandemic by shortening the preseason from four games to two.

But Devin McCourty and his brother Jason know the league still has more pressing issues to tackle.

Here's how the New England Patriots defensive backs reacted to the preseason news Sunday night on their "Double Coverage" podcast.

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"Does it matter?" Devin said, via ESPN's Mike Reiss. "We have to figure out, 'How do we get back in the locker room?' When we go back, are we straight to training camp? What is that procedure? ... For us as players, we still want to know, 'How is everything going to function and work?'

"Don't get me wrong, everybody is working towards that and building. There's calls and everything. But I think that is more important than whether there's four preseason games, two preseason games, no preseason games.

"All that stuff will work itself out. All that stuff matters if the first phase of us being back in training camp is going well. If that doesn't go well, then there is no anything. For me that has been more my focus. I haven’t really cared what the preseason games look like."

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The NFL has stuck to its 2020 timetable, with training camps still set to begin in late July and the regular season set to start in early September. But the McCourtys aren't alone in wondering whether players can safely practice and play amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"At this point, it's just like, 'What is the safest way to get back on the field and to actually have a season?' " Jason said. "If that means we're reducing preseason, whatever the case is, obviously we have to do what we need to do."

The NFL has had the benefit of time compared to the NBA, Major League Baseball, NHL and MLS, which have implemented rigorous safety protocols as they attempt to restart their seasons.

But with training camp rapidly approaching, the NFL will need to come up with its own plan quickly if it wants to safely hold the 2020 season.

Bill Belichick confident in Patriots' safety protocols despite opt-outs

Bill Belichick confident in Patriots' safety protocols despite opt-outs

The New England Patriots already have had eight players opt out of the 2020 NFL season, and few would blame Bill Belichick -- the oldest head coach in the league at 68 -- if he made a similar decision.

So, did concerns about COVID-19 lead Belichick to consider not coaching in 2020? It doesn't appear so.

"I feel very good about the environment that we're in," Belichick said Friday in a video conference with reporters. "I feel fine."

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Belichick also confirmed no coaches on his staff have backed out of the 2020 season.

The Patriots are in the "acclimation period" of training camp, with players going through non-padded walk-throughs outside Gillette Stadium as they ramp up for their first padded practice on Aug. 17.

According to Belichick, the players and staff in the building feel confident in their safety so far.

"I can't speak for everybody, but I think my impression is that as an organization, as a coaching staff, the support people, the players -- there's a comfort level with what we're doing and who's doing it and how we're doing it, and we're being productive," Belichick said.

"So, if concerns or problems come up, then we'll address those. But right now, I think it's a good working environment. We're getting a lot done."

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The Patriots, like every other team, have to follow rigorous safety protocols that include frequent COVID-19 tests, temperature checks and physical distancing measures. That "new normal" will take some getting used to, but Belichick believes the protocols have helped create an environment that coaches and staff feel safe in.

"The organization has taken a lot of steps to ensure everyone's safety and opportunity to do their job and do it safely and do it productively," Belichick said. 

"Certainly there's a lot of responsibility on each one of us to do things in a way that doesn't affect others negatively, that we take the proper precautions that we can and should, so that's what we're doing."

Mohamed Sanu shouts out Cam Newton in Patriots practice Instagram post

Mohamed Sanu shouts out Cam Newton in Patriots practice Instagram post

Mohamed Sanu finally doesn't have to fly across the country to work out with his new quarterback.

The New England Patriots began Phase 1 of training camp this week by hitting the practice field as a team outside Gillette Stadium.

That means Cam Newton joined his Patriots teammates in an official capacity for the first time, and Sanu seems pretty excited about having his new quarterback in the building.

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Here's the Instagram shout-out Sanu gave Newton Thursday on Instagram via a photo of the two in Patriots gear at training camp:

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Beannnn & Ace booogie wit da hoodie

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Sanu and Newton teamed up for informal throwing sessions in Los Angeles just days after the 31-year-old quarterback signed with the Patriots in free agency and appeared to develop a strong connection.

Like Newton, Sanu has a lot to prove this season after an ankle injury plagued his 2019 campaign with New England. The 30-year-old sprained his ankle in his second game with the Patriots last season after a midseason trade from the Atlanta Falcons and caught three passes or fewer in his final six games of the season.

Sanu projects to be the Patriots' No. 2 wide receiver this season behind Julian Edelman, so if he can stay healthy, he could go a long way in helping Newton and the Patriots finding success this season despite a wave of player opt-outs.