Bill Belichick heaps praise on iron-man Devin McCourty ahead of 200th career start


Patriots safety Devin McCourty just turned 35 years old this fall and is in the midst of his 13th NFL season. But you wouldn’t know it based on how (and how much) he’s playing so far in 2022.

The veteran safety is about to start his 200th career game on Thursday at Gillette Stadium against the Buffalo Bills, an achievement which earned special praise from owner Robert Kraft this week. He also had played 97 percent of his team’s defensive snaps, which is amazing at this stage of his career.

Bill Belichick isn’t taking any of that for granted.

“Devin’s been a tremendous asset to this organization and me personally,” the coach said of his longtime defensive star and leader. “He’s been a team captain and leader of our defense really since the day he got here. … His communication, his leadership, his work ethic, his training on and off the field — we’re very fortunate to have him and have had him.”

McCourty isn’t quite as dynamic and versatile as he used to be with Belichick admitting the Patriots have scaled back McCourty’s usage on special teams as he’s aged. Nowadays, he mostly sits back and roams the deep part of the field, making opposing offenses think twice about dialing up deep shots.

But he still gets his share of production, racking up two interceptions (both off of Jets quarterback Zach Wilson) and 53 total tackles (41 solo tackles) on the year.

All of that makes McCourty a hard man to take off of the field as evidenced by his snap counts and that fact that he’s started every NFL game he’s played in.

“It’s pretty good,” head coach Bill Belichick said of McCourty’s milestone. “I don’t know exactly how many other players can say that. But he trains hard. He works very hard. It’s not by accident.

“He puts in a lot of time, puts in a lot of training. He’s in top condition all the time, and he takes care of himself. And (he) plays with good fundamentals, which is another way to stay healthy. He plays with good, solid fundamentals as a tackler and taking on blockers, things like that, which is another good way to preserve on those hits if you do it the right way. Use your leverage, use your strength. He does that.”

McCourty will need all of those fundamentals and more when the Patriots take on the Bills, who have owned New England the last two seasons, on Thursday night. And even at age 35, the Patriots still need him.

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