With due respect to Tom Brady, he's no longer on the New England Patriots. And his former team is intent on turning the page.
Veteran safety and Patriots co-captain Devin McCourty will play a key role in that transition as one of the team's leaders after Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.
While the Patriots haven't been able to meet in person with team facilities closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, McCourty says their "virtual meetings" have been helpful in establishing a new identity for this club.
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"I think one of the biggest things we have to do as a team, and as players individually, is move on and lock in, and get focused on life without Tom,” McCourty said Friday during an interview with Chris Carlin of ESPN Radio 89.7 in New York.
“Not just to harp on it and talk about it, but actually to move on and try to prepare. I think the virtual meetings have been good for us to start that process."
The Patriots began their virtual offseason program -- which includes film sessions and workouts all conducted remotely via conference calls and video chats -- on April 20.
By all accounts, the sessions have gone well, as defensive tackle Lawrence Guy observed that players have been more attentive and inquisitive than they may have been otherwise.
Still, McCourty admitted the team won't have full closure on losing Brady and several others to free agency until they meet in the Gillette Stadium locker room.
"I think that’s the first time you realize that guys are gone,” McCourty said. "Obviously Tom, but even a guy like Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts (or) Jamie Collins.
"I think when you get in the locker room, you start to look down at different parts of the locker room. You’re so used to seeing certain guys. And when that’s not there anymore, that’s when it first hits you."
It's unclear when the Patriots will get back in the locker room, though, so for now, McCourty is trying to help his teammates look ahead rather than in the past.