McCourty shrugs off injury, pressure to bounce back

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McCourty shrugs off injury, pressure to bounce back

FOXBORO -- Devin McCourty is on the hot seat in 2012.
The cornerback's sophomore year was almost as bad as his rookie year was good. From Pro Bowler to near-bust: a late-season move to free safety in 2011 signaled him a liability.
It's because he set the bar so high to start that his fall was impossible to comprehend.
Even when McCourty did stay with his man, if the footwork was good, he just couldn't make a play on the ball. Only one player surrendered more yardage last season (Green Bay'sTramon Williams) than McCourty's 1,004. Opponents caught 62 balls of the 101 they were targeted for against him. And the average quarterback rating against McCourty? 106.2.
But he kept his head up through it all.
A first-year captain, McCourty remained accountable after every game no matter what the damage.
Negativity only would have made things worse.
"It's football; you've got to keep playing," he said Thursday. "Once you doubt yourself, you might as well just ask not to be on the field.
"Same approach I had last year and coming into my rookie year is the same now: I'm just trying to improve each day here. So far, that's worked for me, just improving and learning form other guys. I think that's what I'll stick to and just keep working on."
It's fair to wonder if the shoulder separation McCourty suffered in New England's Week 5 tilt against the Jets dogged him for the rest of the season.
But when offered the excuse, he waved it off.
McCourty said he knew immediately upon colliding with teammate Sterling Moore that something was very, very wrong. Still, he insists the worst of the pain was felt on the walk back to the locker room -- that, after that moment, it just kept getting better.
"It hurt to move probably the first week," he admitted. "But after that it was just kind of strengthening it and going through the whole process of building it back up. I think the biggest thing that's helped me is the time and steady working at it.
"It was tough, but I thought I was fortunate that it wasn't something really serious that could have ended the season or something like that. I try to see the positive in every situation."
What about those post-game moments when he looked pained just reaching into his locker?
"That's just the way it looked," he said tightly. "It felt alright."
McCourty can dismiss the injury if he wants -- the analysts will only be harder on him. Not that he cares. The cornerback shrugged at the pressure being put on him in print.
"I see it as, everybody has a job. Our job is to play football; your guys' job is to watch and judge on what you see, and make opinions, and talk on what's out there. I just think about it that way: everyone has their own job to do. "
The Patriots only care McCourty does his.

Wilfork on Body Issue: 'Looking forward to what the locker room's going to say'

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Wilfork on Body Issue: 'Looking forward to what the locker room's going to say'

ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue won't hit newsstands until July 8, but Vince Wilfork gave people a not-so-little preview of what to expect this week.

The former Patriots defensive lineman, who is listed at 325 pounds but said he's weighed as much as 350 pounds, sat down for an interview about his size that landed on ESPN.com on Thursday.

"I just think it's a good idea for people that are bigger-boned," Wilfork said when asked why he posed nude for the Body Issue. "If people can look at me, a guy that's 325-plus, doing an issue like this, I'm pretty sure that they might have a little confidence.

"There will be critics, just like with everything else. I think a lot of people will get a laugh out of it, I'll tell you that. I'm looking forward to what the locker room's going to say. But at the end of the day, I'm perfectly fine with who I am as a person and what I have accomplished. It shows a lot of my personality."

You can read the full interview here, as well as watch a video that shows Wilfork in all his modeling glory.

Brady, Gronkowski make Top 10 of NFL Network's Top 100

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Brady, Gronkowski make Top 10 of NFL Network's Top 100

Ask a football fan in New England, and he or she might tell you that Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski are the top two players in the NFL. A random NFL player might not be as generous, but on balance, Brady and Gronkowski's peers consider the Patriots stars to be among the top 10 talents in the league. 

The NFL Network announced the final 10 players to be included in their annual Top 100 list, a list voted on by players, and both Brady and Gronkowski made the cut.

The order of the top 10 has been determined, but has not yet been announced. Brady and Gronkowski are in the running for No. 1 alongside Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Luke Kuechly, Cam Newton, Adrian Peterson, Aaron Rodgers and JJ Watt. 

The weekly series, which has counted down Nos. 100-11, will end on Wednesday, July 6 with two, one-hour episodes on NFL Network at 8 and 9 p.m. Highlights of each player will be featured, as will interviews with some of their teammates and competitors. 

"He plays with a chip on his shoulder he’s always had," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said of Brady, "that really separates him."

Of Rob Gronkowski, Texans corner Charles James II said, "He's a glitch on Madden."

The only other Patriots players included in the Top 100 were Julian Edelman (who came in at No. 87) and Chandler Jones (No. 48). Jones, now a member of the Cardinals, was the only Patriots defender involved. 

Corner Malcolm Butler, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower and safety Devin McCourty all had an argument to be included but were left off. 

NFL.com contributors Gregg Rosenthal, Chris Wesseling, Maurice Jones-Drew and Ike Taylor put together their own individual Top 100 lists to supplement the one voted on by current players. Rosenthal included Collins (No. 64), McCourty (No. 73) and Butler (No. 99) in addition to Edelman (No. 84). Wesseling included Collins (No. 43), McCourty (No. 88) and Hightower (No. 91), but not Edelman. Jones-Drew included both Edelman (No. 62) and Butler (No. 95). Taylor included only Edelman (No. 89).