Each year, the NFL selects one player as its Walter Payton Man of the Year, an award named after the legendary Chicago Bears running back. All 32 teams nominate one of their players, and this week, the Patriots selected safety/co-captain Devin McCourty, primarily for his work in helping to find a cure for Sickle Cell, a disease that has affected members of his own family.
Coincidentally, McCourty's twin brother, Jason, was also nominated this year by his club, the Tennessee Titans, for the same reason.
"I'm just honored that this team selected me," Devin told reporters Friday, "because we have a bunch of guys that could be nominated each year for this. So, it's an honor to represent the team."
The familial connection was not lost on McCourty. The brothers' father died when they were very young, forcing their mother to raise them as a single parent.
"One of the greatest things is me being nominated along with my brother," he added. "To me, more credit really should go to our mom, you know, to have two kids, both in the NFL and both be nominated for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. To me, it just shows what she was able to do with us and we kind of just followed what she told us. Really, it should be her name under Tennessee and New England."
The McCourty brothers and each of the other 30 team nominees will receive a $1,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. Three finalists will receive an additional $5,000 donation and the recipient of this year's Walter Payton Award will receive an additional $20,000 donation in his name to the charity of his choice. The award will be handed out January 31 in Arizona, on the eve of Super Bowl XLIX.
For the second straight day, the Patriots had perfect attendance at practice. All 63 players – 53 on the active roster and 10 practice squad men – were suited up and taking part at least on a limited basis.