Rutgers teammates McCourty and Rice ready to go at it


Rutgers teammates McCourty and Rice ready to go at it

FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty knew all along that Ray Rice would have success at the professional level. The two arrived at Rutgers in 2005, and by the time Rice left almost three years later, McCourty knew he had played with a future NFL star.

"That was our guy in college," McCourty said. "He made a lot of big plays for us, and when we watched as he went into the NFL I think we were all excited for him. You never know whats going to happen, but I dont think there were many guys in college that doubted he was going to be a big success in the NFL."

Now as a captain and starting safety for the Patriots, McCourty is charged with trying to stop Rice in the AFC Championship Game.

The Ravens' lead running back grew up a short drive from McCourty in New Jersey and the two are still friendly. But that doesn't mean their collisions on Sunday will be any less forceful, McCourty said.

"We hang out a little bit in the offseason," McCourty explained. "There are a bunch of us that went to school together and came in at the same time at Rutgers and won a lot of games there. The biggest thing, I think, is that none of that will matter Sunday. Well be going at it just like every other time weve played in the NFL."

Rice is one of the most unique running backs in the NFL, given his agility, his hands and his size. At 5-foot-9, 195 pounds, Rice is a compact muscle mass who doesn't shy from contact, but can just as easily juke defenders and run around them. He rushed for 1,143 yards and 9 touchdowns during the regular season and caught 61 passes for another 478 yards and a touchdown.

McCourty described the things he noticed about Rice in college that still make him difficult to bring down.

"His balance," McCourty said. "I think it still shows in the NFL. Just maybe because he is so small, he has great balance and leg strength that allows him to break a lot of tackles."

The Patriots have been strong against the run all season. Last week they limited Texans running back Arian Foster to 90 yards and a touchdown in their Divisional Round win, 41-28. During the regular season, they allowed only 3.9 yards per rush -- sixth best in the league.

McCourty will try to help the Patriots continue that success on Sunday, even if it's at the expense of his old college buddy.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.


But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."