Belichick: McCourty a total team-first player


Belichick: McCourty a total team-first player

The Patriots secondary came into focus again after Sunday's win over Jacksonville.

It was impossible not to notice all the personnel shuffling that went on in the backend of the defense because it began at kickoff.
With Alfonzo Dennard inactive, cornerback-turned-safety Devin McCourty returned to left corner. Aqib Talib, active but battling a hip injury, played just eight snaps. Marquice Cole got significant time in the slot. Patrick Chung was back at starting safety.
For all the mixing and matching, coach Bill Belichick noted Monday how important McCourty's ability to be moved around is. The player went back to corner after playing every defensive snap at safety for eight-straight games.
"Devin gives us a lot of flexibility; he's such a versatile guy. He's an excellent tackler, which makes him a candidate to play inside at safety. Of course, you know about his speed and toughness, good ball skills, and the fact that he can go outside and play competitively in this game, where we needed him, or come inside when we needed him in there at safety and give some stability back there. He's so unselfish. Hes well prepared. He's got a good set of skills for either position really, corner or safety.
"He's a total team-first player and I think thats reflected in the fact that his teammates selected him as a captain in his second year on the team. Thats pretty unusual," Belichick said. "That's the way he is; he's very unselfish and does what he needs to do or where he's needed and he does it well. Hes come through for us defensively and in the kicking game in a variety of roles."
Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia agreed.
"Obviously as a leader and a captain of our defense of our team, Devin understands that and just wants to do whatever he can to help us win. And certainly for him to be able to do that and continue to kind of be a multi-faceted player for us is very beneficial for us and a credit to his work and his preparation every week."

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally


Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious.