For their first practice of Divisional Playoff Week, the Patriots enjoyed perfect attendance. That means both safety/co-captain Devin McCourty and tight end Dwayne Allen, who were held out of action last week leading into New England's playoff bye, were back in uniform with their teammates Wednesday.
McCourty suffered a head injury early in the third quarter of the regular season finale against the New York Jets and did not finish that game. Today, he suited up and took part, at least on a limited basis, and is scheduled to speak with reporters on Thursday – a positive sign for his availability against the Chargers this coming Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Until then, McCourty's twin brother, cornerback Jason McCourty, stepped in front of cameras and microphones to share his thoughts on this weekend's Divisional Round matchup with Los Angeles. While Devin has been in the playoffs every year of his NFL career with New England, Jason – in his first season as a Patriot – will be taking part in his first-ever NFL postseason contest.
"Just taking it day-by-day. I can't say I'm nervous at this point. Today was a Wednesday, and just trying to get everything accomplished that you normally do on a Wednesday," he told reporters. "I probably woke up a little more excited this Wednesday than I did two Wednesdays ago when we were just heading into a regular season game."
Like Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson is preparing for his first taste of the playoffs. Jackson admitted that he's anxious to face the Chargers and expects quarterback Phillip Rivers to target him frequently. In the same breath, though, the rookie cornerback also expressed veteran-esque confidence in his ability.
"Yeah, of course. I'm a rookie. Every game, I feel like I get tested, but I feel I've responded [well]. But they're still going to throw at me… I'm ready. I feel like nobody can catch a pass on me. That's my mindset. Whoever I have to guard, whoever's in front of me, that's my job: Make sure he doesn't catch the ball.
"Of course I'm nervous. This is my first playoff game," Jackson confessed. "I'm nervous, but I'm ready. It's a ready nervous… I just have to give it may all. That's all I can do – come ready to play a 60-minute game."
That last sentiment Jackson expressed is one shared by his teammates, regardless of their experience level. Players who spoke on the record so far this week acknowledged that they feel the intensity of the playoffs and recognize that Los Angeles is going to be difficult to defeat, even though the game will be here in Foxborough, where New England is undefeated this season.
"Nothing's taken for granted here, especially not in the NFL playoffs," declared center/co-captain David Andrews. "It's hard to win in this league, and even harder in the playoffs. Everything's heightened that much more. Every situation matters that much more.
"I know [the Chargers] are a good team. We played them last year. it's going to be a tough challenge. We have to be at our best. We can't do things to hurt ourselves. It's not a team you want to play from behind [on the scoreboard]."
"At this time of the year," McCourty added, "you just realize, 'Hey, if things don't go the way we want on Sunday, we come in here Monday and pack our stuff.' Just trying to do a little more this Wednesday than we did the prior Wednesdays of the [regular] season to put ourselves in the best position come Sunday."
So, what's the best way to approach such a consequential contest? Andrews offered the following perspective.
"At the end of the day," he mused, "you can't let the moment get too big. It's just a football game."