Patriots veteran Devin McCourty has options to weigh this offseason.
Down one path, the longtime captain could return for his 14th season in the NFL and continue to build his legacy in New England. On another, he could retire at 35 years old with as many career interceptions as is age and pursue sports media.
Last weekend, he got to see what balancing both would look like, pivoting from being eliminated from playoff contention and having end-of-season meetings straight into a full weekend of NFL coverage.
During the Wild Card weekend, McCourty reunited with the crews of "That Other Pregame Show" and "The NFL Today" on CBS Sports as a guest analyst. After the dust had settled from the NFL slate, he joined Peter King's podcast.
The Patriots safety and sportswriter discussed, of course, McCourty's future and seeing his twin brother Jason McCourty excel in his own respective media gig -- among other things. Here are five things we learned from the sit-down:
McCourty isn't rushing into any decisions, but definitely is exploring what it would look like to pursue free agency in the sports media market.
The wounds from the last game are still fresh, and McCourty's four-interception season showed he's still capable of competing at the highest level.
He told King he's not yet ready make a decision on in he's hanging up the boots, but is enjoying his first handful of tryouts as a media talent free agent.
"I told myself during the year that once the season ended to not rush, and really just give it some time," McCourty said. "With the season ending, now I'm trying to test out that next phase and see what it's like doing the TV stuff. I went down to New York and did CBS. I want to go to L.A. and do NFL Network just to kind of see how all of that feels and how it works. Then I'm just going to take time, go on vacation with my wife and kids, and just relax and try to see what's next. I'm not 100% sure either way, but I know I want to take my time. You do something for 13 years, I don't want to rush to make a decision. I have time and I'm just trying to figure everything out."
He compared his friendship with Slater to the relationship he has with his twin
Sure, it's not uncommon to call your teammates your brothers. But after spending (almost) their entire careers together in New England, McCourty explained his relationship with fellow captain Matthew Slater was much deeper than that.
"I don't have many relationships and I would say is similar to the relationship I have with my twin brother, and through these years, me and Slate have been able to establish that in talking to each other all the time, being each other's sounding board, and it's very similar to the relationship I have with Jason," McCourty said.
The safety went on to discuss how much of a mentor Slater has been to him, and what the special teams captain has accomplished to live up to the legacy of his father, Hall of Famer Jackie Slater.
"Just to think that when when they talk about the Patriots, they'll mention my name after his name -- to me it's just an unbelievable honor."
McCourty seems to find humor in new teammates perceptions of playing in New England
Reputations are what they are, and it's no secret the Patriots pride themselves on hard work and preparation.
"Guys come in with this thought process of almost like you're going into the military," McCourty said.
He gave an anecdote about how squad meetings typically begin at 8:00 a.m., and newcomers will be seated and ready to go five minutes early -- only to wonder where everyone else is.
"I'm like, 'Man, guys, don't walk in until 7:59 or once it hits 8, because you're not late until its 8:01. And guys are like, 'Really, in New England?' What you thought is not always the reality of the situation."
Joe Burrow impressed McCourty on film, and blew him away in their recent matchup
With McCourty getting reps in as an analyst, it was only right that King ask him about some of the young quarterbacks making a name for themself across the NFL.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow came to mind, especially with McCourty facing him for the first time in Week 16. The Patriots knew Burrow was extremely tough and composed, but on the field, McCourty realized just how good he is.
"When we played him, we came out, and every coverage we were in he knew it, and he did what he was supposed to do in those coverages.
"He throws at Ja'Marr Chase on a hesitation-and-go down the sideline. It was the first time we were in man (coverage) in eight or nine plays in a row. As soon as we went he makes the right read and he throws a shot up and Jon Jones makes a play on the ball and breaks it up. But right there, I was like oh man. This dude is good. He is legit at figuring out what you're in."
McCourty wishes he could hate Josh Allen but he can't
You can't talk young quarterbacks without mentioning Josh Allen, even if the Buffalo Bills are a division rival.
"I really wish I could hate Josh Allen," McCourty said. "The guy is just so tough and the few times that I've been around him, he's just a great individual, and that's why you can't hate him. But the amount of pressure he puts on your defense is just so hard."
For McCourty personally, being able to see Allen twice a year and watch him evolve as a player has been cool.
"It's been cool to see him because we've played on twice a year, and I've just seen the growth of him as a player.