In the midst of an 11-year career, veteran cornerback Jason McCourty knows how to maneuver through the NFL stratosphere.
He's played with multiple teams, six head coaches, been on the highest stage possible - winning a Super Bowl during the 2018 season with the Patriots - while also being a part of one of the lowest points a team can reach, which happened in 2016 when he was a member of the Browns organization and they went 0-16 during the regular season. That's why if a younger player is looking for advice, McCourty is the man to go too. And he embraces that role.
"When I first came into the league, I was in Tennessee and I had guys like Courtland Finnegan, Chris Hope, Michael Griffin – a ton of guys that were willing to pour into me and help me figure out how to be a pro, whether it was the defense, whether it was life off the field," McCourty said during his video conference with the media on Wednesday. "So, for me, getting a chance to be around J.C. [Jackson] – [Jonathan] Jones is a young vet himself – but Joejuan [Williams], all of those guys, being able to help them, whether it's questions about finance, questions about agents or any of those different things, to be able to be just a sounding board.
"For me, being able to play for multiple organizations, coaches, there's tidbits that you can kind of take from everywhere, and those guys know that's one thing with me. Whatever the question or anything that I have to share, I'm going to do so. So, I love that aspect."
Having people like Jason, his brother, Devin, Patrick Chung and Stephon Gilmore in a room with younger defensive backs is one of the many reasons why New England has one of the best secondaries in the NFL. The Patriots have been able to use those players as a foundation of stability, which has helped the team develop players like Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, and now Joejuan Williams, who had a very limited workload his rookie season and is learning multiple positions this offseason, which is something he may not have been able to do if he was thrusted into a starting role immediately after entering the NFL.
Unfortunately, chemistry that could have been built this offseason with players like Adrian Philips and Kyle Dugger, who were new additions to the team this offseason and have not gotten to meet their new teammates face-to-face yet because of the pandemic, has not happened. That's something Jason said "sucks" and can stunt the growth and development of the secondary a bit.
"And I think that's the part that sucks right now is we don't get a chance to – obviously, we have our virtual meetings – but you don't get a chance to be in the building, really get to know the new guys and catch up on what's gone on in the offseason and really kind of build that chemistry right now."
Even though New England's secondary is coming off a historically good season, a case can be made that talent-wise they are better than they were last year. Adding Phillips and Dugger to the safety group makes them more versatile - and ultimately more dangerous - and another year with their core of veteran players together makes them even more potent.
Though they may not be able to hit the field together for the first time until at-best the end of June, players like Jason will make sure the team hits the ground running when it's time to rock and roll, whenever that may be.