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Transcripts: Patriots Captains Media Access 7/24

Patriots Player Press Conference Transcripts

July 24, 2019

Devin McCourty

Patriots Defensive Back

Q: Is today an exciting day to get back in the building and see all of the guys and get ready for the first practice tomorrow?

DM: Yeah, I think everybody just being back in the building, it's that feeling of a new year, a new opportunity. We get a chance to be back as a team. I'm here now in my 10th year, so a lot of familiar faces and getting to see guys after the break, life changes, babies and weddings and stuff. So, it's always good to get that good catch up in person.

Q: Did you do anything fun or cool this summer?

DM: I was just a dad most of the summer. One vacation, but nothing I guess that's big time.

Q: Where did you go on vacation?

DM: We went to the Bahamas for a couple of days.

Q: Was it fun?

DM: It was fun. Then we went to Eric Rowe's wedding in Houston, so it was hot but it was a good time.

Q: Do you like training camp or is it a grind?

DM: No, no one likes training camp. But, it gives us a chance to be a good football team. I think you understand, especially as you get older, not everything that's really rewarding and that you'll like in the end is always fun. I always think of training camp like that, but there's days out there that are really fun. We go out there, we have a good practice, we had fun, especially the joint practices. We get a chance to go against other guys, but then there's some practices in two or three weeks that are going to be tough, going to be a grind. But the one thing I always remember is you get to the end of the season, no one thinks back to training camp, how hard it was. You're just thinking about the moment you're in, and training camp and the different things, mini-camp, OTAs, how those days have prepared you. You just grind through it.

Q: The last time we talked to you was at the Super Bowl and I asked you if you're going to retire...

DM: I'm still here, huh.

Q: How much longer are you going to play?

DM: We'll see, man. I'm just having fun. It's been a really fun off-season, starting even in April being back here, still being that veteran presence and being here. The fun hasn't stopped so I won't stop either.

Q: Does it seem like it's been 10 years already in your career?

DM: Sometimes. Sometimes I wake up and it feels like 10 years. Other times I wake up and I feel like a rookie again. It goes fast. I still remember my first training camp, being in here and having to report and run the same day as the vets and so much anxiety and nervous about what'll happen first day of camp. Back then we had double sessions and Bill [Belichick]'s not very detailed in the schedule so you don't know exactly what to expect each day. I still remember that feeling and I try to pass that on to the younger guys and tell them to just keep coming back. I think that has a lot to do with it, to just show up each day at training camp and allow yourself to go through whatever it is Coach [Bill Belichick] has for us.

Q: Did you enjoy training camp when you were a rookie given that it was your first time as a professional?

DM: No. You know, but when I say 'enjoyed' I mean, it's some really hard days of training camp. When you go out there in the morning practice and you're putting on your shoulder pads that are still wet to go back out there for a second practice my rookie year – like, you don't like those things but I think you love football and you love the opportunity to play football. The one thing that I think people – everyone in that locker room loves an opportunity to be in training camp. But I think it's anything you do, you might like how your body looks when you work out but in the middle of doing whatever it is you're doing – burpees, a heavy squat – you're like, "Man, I hate this." But you know at the end of the day it makes you better and you put on your summer bikini or your trunks and you go to the beach and you get some double looks, like Mike [Giardi]. Mike puts on nice suits, he wants to look good. You do that, you have a good feeling about yourself and I think training camp's the same way.

Q: Bill Belichick is in his 20th season now. What do you notice from him as a coach - is he the same coach or do you notice him evolving over the years?

DM: Yeah, I mean, his approach always feels like the same. It's an honor to play for him. I think, like you said, to be in the game four or five decades, that's so much knowledge, that's so much experience that you've been able to see. I think we're very fortunate that we get to sit in there in the mornings when he comes in and sometimes he'll just go on tangents where he's talking about training camp 20 years ago or he's talking about how things were done in his second or third season, and you get to hear those things and I think it puts things in perspective and gives you more than just the X and O of football. But, you know, a better understanding of the game and you have a better understanding of how he sees the game. I think for especially the guys that have been here for a while and have heard the same opening training camp speech or pick whatever type of mood it is, and you hear him go through things, you gain more perspective of how he sees the game, how he sees the team and how he pushes us to get better. Obviously, I like it. This is my 10th year of going in and having the opportunity to play for him. To me, it's just a great honor for each man that gets to sit in there. Even if you only get to sit in there for one training camp. The amount of football you learn sometimes is more in that one training camp than you might learn in your whole life just because of his knowledge and how open he is of sharing the history of the game, what you should do, not just defensively but offense, defense, special teams. He just pours into us each day of that knowledge and once you're sitting here for 10 years, I've gotten a lot of knowledge on so many things that don't even come up for me in the game but allow me to understand the game of football at a higher level.

Q: Do you feel that you can now give your opinion and thoughts to Bill given that you've reached that level as a veteran player?

DM: I think as players we always try to help our coaches out across the board of just our feedback. Ultimately, their coaching us to be better and to have us do things at a certain level, so any feedback we can give helps out. I think that's been the great thing of now being here, being a captain for a couple of years of having that open line of communication and being able to tell them maybe how I feel or maybe even how some things are affecting guys in the locker room that might be younger guys that don't feel the same comfort level. I think that's why some of the older guys, the leadership guys are there to try and help the team move along that path and get better.

Q: How different is this year going to be without Rob Gronkowski?

DM: We don't know. We'll see. Obviously, a huge part of the organization for nine years. I got to come in here with him as a rookie and go through a lot together, but we'll see how it goes. I think that's the thing in football – the one thing that's consistent is change. We all know it's going to happen. I'm excited to go into this year. He looks like he's having an awesome time on Instagram. I'm really happy for him being able to have a great career and leave the game on your own terms. We'll see how it works out for us.

Q: If Rob did to decide to return and play again, how would he be welcomed back to the locker room?

DM: With open arms, I'm sure. For us as players, we don't have time to think about that. I think at the end of the day he'll do what's best for him, but anybody that comes in this locker room is always welcomed with open arms whether it's from retirement, from your eighth team, it doesn't matter. We accept all guys. We took my brother [Jason McCourty] in last year. He struggled for nine years in the NFL, so you talk about a guy like Gronk [Rob Gronkowski] coming back, I think that'll be a lot easier.

Q: In your earlier years training camp involved practices twice a day and it was a lot more physical. Do you think that trickles into September at all now with the lighter workload and less time spent on the practice field during training camp?

DM: I think it forces you to do more on your own compared to before just because you don't have as much practice. But like I said, Bill tells us about a time when training camp was from the beginning of July and all the way until like mid-September of just training camp. Like, no preseason. I think about that and I'm like, "Wow." That makes double sessions sound easy. But I think it's just the evolution of the game. I think the coaches actually make it easier for us because they kind of figure out what we need to do, OTAs, mini-camp, what they need to give us to do during the break and prepare us to come back and then training camp, like I said, you just have to show up. Everything is on a TV when we walk in. You'll know where you'll need to be and that's the mentality you have to have. Just show up every day ready to work and let everything else fall into place.

Matthew Slater

Patriots Wide Receiver

Q: Is today like the first day of school for you guys, a lot of new faces all coming together for the first time?

MS: In a way it is, yes. It's an exciting time of year. I think the comparison is fair. You think about starting school again and having the summer off, doing your own thing and coming back, enjoying the company of your classmates and getting back into the process of learning again. I think it's the same here. We've enjoyed time away, but now it's time to get back together, integrate new guys, and get back to the process of learning and getting better. It's a good comparison.

Q: What was your favorite thing you did over the summer?

MS: I went down to the Wide World of Sports in Orlando. My nephew played in a baseball tournament there. That was a pretty cool complex. I enjoyed some time down there with my family, so that was good.

Q: How did the tournament go?

MS: They didn't play very well, but my nephew played well, so I was proud of him.

Q: Do you enjoy training camp?

MS: I do. It's a necessary part of football. There are days when you're out there and you're not having the most fun you've ever had in your life, but I think it's necessary. You know, I grew up in a house with a man who told me training camp was the best thing that ever happened, so maybe I'm brainwashed a little bit, but I like training camp.

Q: So you embrace the grind?

MS: I do. I do embrace the grind. You can't do this forever, so I think you've got to enjoy each and every bit of it. The parts that you don't consider the most fun, and the things that are a lot of fun – I think you've got to try and enjoy all of it. This is a necessary evil, if you will, when it comes to football, and preparing yourself for the season. Certainly, I don't enjoy being away from my wife and kids and some of those other things, but I think training camp is a unique time of year for a unique sport and it's something that you need.

Q: Do you still feel like you're fighting for a roster spot?

MS: Every year. I just cover kicks. There's a lot of me's out there on the street, so I've got to fight for my job every year.

Q: Can you compare and contrast coming back to training camp after a Super Bowl winning year versus other years?

MS: It's no different. What happened last year has no bearing on this season. I think each and every year you have to find a way to motivate yourself and get yourself ready to go. You have to be working to improve. You've got to avoid complacency at all costs. So if anything, you emphasize that even more in years where you're coming off a Super Bowl win, but I don't think there's any difference. What happens in the past – as you know around here – stays in the past, and we try to focus on the present and moving forward.

Q: How does Tom Brady approach his role as a captain after being in New England for so long?

MS: I look at a guy in Tom, who's doing this for the 20th time, and he's having as much fun now as he's ever had. He's always led by example. For all of us in this building as players, you know that there's always going to be one guy that's older than you that you can look up to. We look to him and see how he approaches things. He takes nothing for granted. He prepares himself just as any professional should. Day in and day out, he's ready to go. He takes care of himself and he comes in here with a lot of excitement and joy. I think he realizes how special the opportunity he has each and every year – to be a part of this team – is, and that's contagious for all of us. So, I think just his overall attitude and approach when it comes to the game of football and the process of preparation has been tremendous for everyone in this building.

Q: Is that level of enthusiasm necessary from a 42-year old?

MS: Yeah, absolutely. Again, I think it's about perspective. If you don't have the right perspective when you're playing this game, you can lose a lot. I think you have to realize, "Hey, we're all blessed." Nobody in here is owed anything, we're all blessed to be playing this game. Nobody in here chose their family of origin. Nobody in here gave themselves any of the abilities that they have. It's a gift, and I think you need to approach it as such. You need to be thankful for the opportunities that you have. Come out with a good attitude and make the most of the opportunity that you have.

Q: What do you see behind the scenes that reinforces when Coach [Bill] Belichick says that he loves everything about the game of football?

MS: To me, I don't know what other things in life Coach [Bill Belichick] has that motivate him or excite him more than preparing for football. To be here into my 12th training camp and to see his level of preparation, his focus, his attention to detail – having not wavered one bit over that time period – has been remarkable. For a man that has accomplished everything he's accomplished as a coach, for him to remain focused and driven, and carry himself with a great deal of humility through it all is remarkable. I think it really speaks to his love of the game. You can't fake that. Certainly, you know, I talked about training camp earlier – you can't fake your love of the game of football when you're grinding through it. When you're missing sleep, you're away from your family – I think it would be really hard to keep doing this if you didn't love it.

Q: What motivates you and has that changed since you entered the league?

MS: Yes and no. I think my number one motivation has remained the same – it's remained constant – and I feel like the good Lord has shown me grace and given me an opportunity to play a game that I love. The only person whose opinion I care about at the end of the day is His, and what He thinks of me, and what He thinks of what I'm doing with the gifts that He's given me. So, that's always going to be my number one motivation. Certainly, I always feel like I have to prove that I belong in this league. I think I've been doubted since day one, so that's something I enjoy – at least, trying to tell myself. And then, my family. You know, when I came into this league, it was just me, and now I represent my wife and soon-to-be three kids, so that certainly has changed over the years as well.

Q: What will this team miss most about not having Rob Gronkowski around the locker room?

MS: There will be a lot of things that we'll miss. Rob was one-of-a-kind – obviously on the field, with what he's able to do as a player. We see that each and every week over the last nine years, but I think his fun-loving spirit and personality, and his child-like joy that he brought each and every day to the workplace. His humility – just a genuine human being – certainly, those things are hard to come by in today's time, so we'll miss that.

Q: Did you just break news about a third baby?

MS: To you guys. My wife's due in about five-and-a-half weeks here, so hopefully we can get through training camp. 

Q: So you're excited to do more diapers then?

MS: I've been changing diapers the last four years. I'm all in at this point, so, thank you.

Q: For rookies entering their first training camp, what would be your first piece of advice?

MS: I think the number one thing I tell guys is, "Don't start counting numbers." Don't start looking in your room and saying, "Oh, we've got this guy, this guy, this guy's doing that, this guy's going to be there." No offense, don't read what you guys are writing about who's on the bubble – this guy's projected roster predictions. I got into that trap as a young player. I think you just have to put your head down, try to get better each and every day, try to take the coaching you're receiving each and every day, come out and compete, and be thankful for the opportunity you have. Enjoy it. Look, there's a lot of guys that want to be in our shoes for a chance to compete to be on an NFL roster. So, enjoy the process of competition, enjoy the process of trying to get better, because you never know when that opportunity will no longer be there for you. 

Q: Were any of those pieces of advice passed down to you when you were a rookie?

MS: Yes. I certainly was told not to read and I read anyway, and then I was like, "Oh man, I'm going to get cut," so, I had to learn to ignore the noise, if you will, but, I had to learn to enjoy it. I don't think I enjoyed it as much as a young player, because you're so stressed about what's going to happen – "Am I going to be here tomorrow. I messed up on that play." I think you have to try to be able to enjoy it. Certainly there's a lot at stake, but you've got to enjoy it. I had great mentors in the building when I was a young player – Benjamin Watson, Sammy Morris, Tedy Bruschi – I mean, so many guys – Larry Izzo – I could list off 30 guys that were really great and helped me get through those early years.

Q: Do you think that's particularly important today because of social media?

MS: It is. I don't know how they do it. That's why you won't catch me dead or alive on that social media. Everybody's got an opinion, everybody's an expert, people have access to you like never before, and that makes it challenging. Look, we're all humans, so if you read online somebody saying "You stink," over and over and over again, or, "Hey, you're not going to make the team," over and over and over again, that can play into your mental a little bit. So, it is tough for those kids. My advice is not to have it, but I don't know how many of them listen to that advice. We'll get through it. We're a family in here and they need to understand the thing that matters the most is what people in the building think of them. 

James White

Patriots Running Back

Q: What advice can you give to the rookies this year?

JW: Basically, put your head down and work. It's going to be a grind, going to be a long month, with a lot of bumps and bruises. Lot of hard work, lot of learning, but just have fun with it. Your head's going to be spinning a little, but it's just football. At the end of the day, go out there and put your best foot forward.

Q: Is training camp fun for you? Or is it a grind?

JW: No, it's fun, man. I mean, that first year is a grind just because you're coming from training going into OTAs. That first season seems extremely long, but I feel like the older you get, the more you enjoy the process. You don't know how long this is going to last. This could be your only training camp. You may have five more, you may have 10 more. You've just got to enjoy the process. 

Q: Is it exciting to see everyone today?

JW: It's very exciting. This is the start of football season. Getting the guys back together. We're trying to build something special as a group. Doing the conditioning test and seeing how in-shape everybody is – this is really just the beginning of everything. Starting from OTAs until now, it's time to put the work in.

Q: How did you spend your time over the summer?

JW: I just relaxed in Florida, enjoyed the heat, worked out down there, relaxed with my wife and my family. It goes by fast, but enjoyed getting some down time.

Q: Did you just say you enjoyed the heat?

JW: Yeah I enjoyed the heat. It's cold up here.

Q: What do you see from Coach [Bill] Belichick behind the scenes that motivates him still?

JW: I mean, he's a genius. He's going to challenge you each and every way, mentally and physically. He's the best coach out there. He demands the best out of you. You don't have a choice but to get better – he's going to make you work. I wouldn't want to play for any other coach. He's going to get it out of you.

Q: Bill is one of the older coaches at age 67. Do you sort of look at him as an older guy that has a younger approach?

JW: I mean, I don't really think of him as old or anything, just a coach. I just forgot his age right about now. Like I said, he puts the work in. He's dedicated to this. He's in this building longer than anybody. I'm sure he sleeps here sometimes. But, he's dedicated and, like I said, he knows his craft and he wants you to know yours.

Q: Does Tom Brady act his age?

JW: Good question. I would say no. I would say he doesn't act his age. You'd think he's 25, 26, just like the rest of us, even though he's 40-something or whatever. He stays up with the times and he knows each and every one of his teammates from a rookie undrafted guy to the oldest guy – I mean, he's the oldest guy – the oldest other guy in the room. He gets to know his teammates and he knows how to connect with everybody, so he doesn't seem like he's 40-whatever, 40 or 41.

Q: Can you describe what he's like when you come in the building on a day like today on the eve of practice? Can you envision what he'll be like when you turn the corner and see him today?

JW: He's energetic. He greets you with energy. He's very excited. You'd think this was his first year here even though it's his – whatever – 20th year here. He enjoys the process. You see from the rookies when they step in here from OTAs, they see how hard he works in the classroom, out there on the field. You can't help but try and emulate a guy like that. He puts in the work and he's been doing it for 20 years. Us young guys, we only want to be like that.

Q: How do you think the team will adjust to not having Rob Gronkowski here?

JW: You've got to play with who's out here. We have a lot of talented guys in this locker room but you've got to put the work in. Everybody finds their roles. We have a great offensive coordinator. They'll put people in the right place and see if we can go out there and succeed.

Q: Is he a tough personality to replace?

JW: There's only one Gronk [Rob Gronkowski]. You can't replace that personality. He's a great football player but you've got to play with who's out here.

Q: What stood out to you about Sony Michel's rookie season and him being able to work through some injuries as a rookie?

JW: I mean, he's a tough competitor. It's not easy coming in your rookie season, being hurt and being a key part of the offense and still going out there each and every week and putting that work in. I commend him. He does whatever it takes to make his body feel right and get ready for game day. It's something that a lot of the young guys can learn from because he battled through some tough stuff.

Q: What is it about Josh McDaniels and his ability to adapt on a weekly basis to the personnel he has?

JW: He gets to know his players. He knows what everybody can do well, what they may not be able to do well. He's going to put you in the position to succeed. He's going to know the defense inside and out that we're playing that week. Like I said, he's going to put you out there in the best play that he can possibly call each and every down, each and every situation. So, he prepares extremely hard and, like I said, you're going to be extremely prepared each and every week that you step out there messing around with Coach McDaniels. He's excellent.

Q: How would you describe what Matthew Slater has meant to the Patriots in the time that you've been here?

JW: He's awesome. He's great veteran leadership, works extremely hard. He keeps the locker room together. He makes sure it's a family-like atmosphere in this building. Like I said, there can be some tough days, there can be some easy days, but he's the guy that kind of keeps everybody locked in and keeps that great camaraderie throughout this team. He's a great guy to have in this locker room.

Q: Do the older guys like to harp on you younger guys for not having to do through two-a-day practices like they used to for training camp?

JW: Yeah, it was a lot different back then. I'm sure it was a lot tougher with two-a-days and all of that stuff. Some of the older guys remind us of that. Like I said, I'm glad two-a-days are gone for sure. But I mean, we're still putting that work in. Like I said, Coach Belichick is going to give it at you whether it's one-a-days, two-a-days, whether he's going to get after you in the meeting room or on the practice field.

Q: What do you remember most about your first camp?

JW: I know it was challenging. From the first practice to the last, some ups, some downs. You're not going to make every play. You're not going to do everything right. You're going to make mistakes. You've just got to learn from it. Just don't' make the same mistake twice. That's it for the young guys. There's going to be some ups and downs. Just learn from them and go out there and keep playing.

Q: Did you ever have two-a-days in high school or college?

JW: Yeah, in college we had them and high school. It was rough. But, I mean, that was just a part of football. We didn't know any different so we just went out there and played. It wasn't too bad.

Q: How meaningful is it for you to still have so many teammates from your rookie season that are still here all these years later?

JW: It's pretty cool. The NFL, a lot of guys bounce around to different teams each and every year. It's pretty cool to have some consistency with a lot of the guys I played with ever since my rookie year. We share stories and kind of speak to the young guys of what it's like from me being here. This is my sixth year, guys have been here 10 years, 12 years, 20 years. They can share a lot of experiences and help the young guys kind of know what to expect.

Q: Is it nice to have Brandon Bolden back?

JW: Yeah, definitely. That's my guy, man. He works extremely hard. He may not get as many reps on offense, but on special teams he makes a huge difference. When he does get in on offense, he makes big plays as well.

Q: Did you give him back the boom box he left here?

JW: He still has it; yeah. You guys will hear it.

Q: What can the running backs do to help make up for some of the lack of experience at the wide receiver and tight end position?

JW: Well, for one, just help them learn the offense. Like I said, help them know what to expect. You'll be put in all different types of positions. Just learn as much as possible, learn the whole concept of plays, learn the whole concept of the offense. Just compete with one another, make each other better. Those guys, each and every one of them, whoever happens to make the team will be a vital part of the offense. Coach McDaniels does a great job of finding roles for everybody, finding out what you can do at your best and at the highest level so he'll do a great job of doing that.

Q: Has Tom Brady told you yet that he's going to be relying on you even more this year?

JW: We rely on everybody. It's not just myself. Like I said, each and every week it could be somebody different. One week I may have zero catches, somebody else will have 10. Next week, I've got 10 and somebody else has two. I mean, we just do whatever it takes to win. And that's the special thing about our offense – we're not just going to win one way and by one guy.

Q: Are you ever surprised by Josh McDaniels or are you ever wondering how is the team going to come up with a game plan when you're shorthanded, but then it all seems to work out on Sunday?

JW: I mean, you're surprised sometimes. Some of the stuff that he can come up with is truly amazing. You can tell he works extremely hard at his craft. He's going to find exactly what he thinks is going to work and everybody believes in. I think that helps out a lot.

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